Sunday, January 20, 2019


If I were in charge of education (which unfortunately I am not!) I would like to see each grade level incorporate more poetry in their curriculum. Of course children can develop fluency, vocabulary, and many standards with poetry, but, more importantly, it can help them FALL IN LOVE WITH LANGUAGE! The Poetry Cafe is a "sweet" way to end a boring winter week.

How to get started!

Write a note asking each family to send in a box of instant hot chocolate and an old coffee mug. Explain that you will end each week with the “Poetry Café” where children can listen to poetry, recite poems, and enjoy a mug of hot chocolate.  

*If you teach at a school where no outside food is allowed check to make sure this idea would be permissible. If children have allergies you could ask the parents to send instant tea or another beverage that their child could enjoy.

*If you teach in a low-income area you could probably find a Sunday school class, civic group, education sorority, or grant money to help purchase the mix and mugs.   

Build children’s interest in the “Poetry Café’ during the week by talking about how COOL it’s going to be. “Yummy hot chocolate and poems! I can’t wait!” Display poetry books and give children sticky notes so they can mark the ones they would like you to read. On Friday afternoon heat water in a coffee maker. (Your school cafeteria might have one you can borrow.) Demonstrate how to cut the top off the package of hot chocolate and carefully pour it in the cup. Fill the cups with hot water (not boiling) and tell the children to stir them slowly as they sing their ABC’s or ZYX's (the alphabet backwards). When everyone is ready, turn off the lights, and let the magic begin!

*Explain that if they like a poem they can snap their fingers. 

(Apparently, that's what the beat poets used to do.)

*Invite 5 students each week to memorize a poem and recite it to the class. Make a poster that says “Poetry Club” and let children sign their name when they memorize a poem.

Poetry Notebook
Here's something else that I would do if I were in charge of the word of education.  First, I'd give each child a pocket folder to decorate as poetry notebook.  Each week I would select a poem that would be ENGAGING and appropriate for their skill level and do the activities below.

Monday - Introduce the poem as a shared reading experience. Reread the poem several times. Let children use pointers to find letters or words they can recognize, point out words that rhyme, punctuation, etc.

Tuesday - Give children individual copies of the poem. Let them illustrate the poem, hole punch it, and put it in their notebook.
Hint! Give children blank paper to encourage creativity and their imaginations.

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.

Saturday, January 19, 2019


National Puzzle Day is January 29th, but I'm going to talk about puzzles in today's blog.

There have been numerous research studies that confirm the importance of puzzles in cognitive development. Other benefits of puzzles include:
     Small motor skills
     Eye-hand coordination
     Task initiation and completion
     Sense of accomplishment

Puzzles also provide the opportunity for children to collaborate and cooperate with a partner or small group.

Here are a few ideas to incorporate puzzles into your plans January 29th or any day.

Story Puzzles

Have children draw pictures and write stories on cardstock. Next, let them cut the paper into puzzle pieces. (I’ve found it best to give them a limit of 8-15 pieces or they’ll end up with confetti.) Put these in an envelope and exchange with friends. After putting the puzzles together they can read each other’s stories.

Word Puzzles

Write vocabulary/spelling/sight words on sentence strips. Cut between the letters and place them in an envelope. Children put the letters together and read the word.

Hint! Write the word on the back of the envelope so they can self-check.
Ask them to write the words after they complete the puzzles.

Poem Puzzles
Make 2 copies of nursery rhymes or poems. Glue one to the front of a clasp envelope. Make a puzzle of the other rhyme by cutting between the lines or words. Store in the envelope. Children place the puzzle pieces on top of the original and then read.


Magazine Puzzles
Let children cut out favorite pictures from a magazine. (These could relate to a theme or unit.) Glue pictures to a piece of cardstock and then cut into puzzle pieces.

Cereal Box Puzzles
Ask children to bring empty cereal boxes from home. Cut the front sections off the boxes and cut into puzzle pieces.
*For younger students it works best to use two boxes that are the same. One can be cut up and then they can place the pieces on the whole.

Greeting Card Puzzles
Ask parents to save old greeting cards. Child can cut off the front of the cards and then use them to make puzzles.

Jigsaw Puzzle
Put a jigsaw puzzle (50-100+ pieces depending on the age and ability of your students) on a table. Explain that you will leave it out all week and if they finish their work early they can try and put it together. (You’ll quickly be able to identify the children who have done puzzles at home with their families.) 

Friday, January 18, 2019


What do compliments and kazoos have in common?  They are both holidays you can celebrate the end of January.

Compliment Day January 24th

This would be a good day to talk about what a compliment is. How do you feel when someone gives you a compliment? What are some different ways you can compliment someone? How many compliments can you give during the day?

Compliment Jar
Get a clear jar and a bag of gems. Whenever someone compliments your class put a "gem" in the jar. When the jar is full the children get a special reward such as a popcorn party, extra recess, etc.

*You can use cotton balls, marbles, or other items for the compliment jar.

Hint! Be sure and let your special teachers and other school staff know about your gem jar so they can compliment your class when they EARN it.

Compliment Board (Kalli Lemley)
To encourage kindness and appreciation for others, place a bulletin board outside the room dedicated to compliments to each other. Vary the theme throughout the year:
“Leaf a compliment.” (Leaves)
“Snow’s some kindness.” (Snowflakes)
“Send a ray of sunshine.” (Sunshines)
“Watch our friendship grow.” (Flowers)

National Kazoo Day January 28th

Ask your students to bring in paper towel rolls. (For sanitary reasons it is best to collect paper towel rolls rather than TP rolls!) Cut the paper towel rolls in half and punch a hole ¾” from the top. Let children decorate the cardboard rollers with markers or crayons. Cut 6” circles out of wax paper and use a rubber band to attach to one end of the roller and you’re ready to hum. March around the room as you hum some of your favorite songs.
Play “name that tune” as different students stand up and try to stump their classmates by humming a familiar tune.

Thursday, January 17, 2019


No matter where you live, there is WEATHER!  It's real and it's something that children are naturally interested in.  

We always sang a weather song at morning meeting. Each day we had a "meteorologist" who would remind us which word to use in the song.  The "meteorologist" would make a big deal out of walking to the window, looking around, and then choosing the word to sing in the song.

Weather Song  (Tune: "Shorting Bread")
What will the weather, weather, weather,
What will the weather be today?
He/she says its sunny, sunny, sunny.
S-U-N-N-Y today.

*Insert cloudy, rainy, snowy, etc. in the song.

Weather Song #2   (Tune: "Bingo")
There is some weather in the sky and sunny is its name-o.
s - u - n - n - y, s - u - n - n - y, s - u - n - n - y,
and Sunny is its name-o.

Weather Words
Write weather words on a language experience chart and point to the letters as you sing.

*Challenge children to come up with synonyms for different types of weather. For example, sunny could be bright, hot, cloudless, etc.

Weather Journal
Staple several sheets of paper together to make individual books.  Each day have children illustrate the weather and write descriptive sentences.

*Graph the weather for a month. Were there more sunny days or cloudy days? 
There are several different versions of this you can download free off the internet.

Place a thermometer outside your classroom window so children can learn how to read the thermometer and judge appropriate clothing for outdoor play.

Wind Tester
Make a wind tester by taping a strip of tissue paper to a craft stick.  Hold it up to see if the wind is blowing.  What direction is the wind blowing from?

How Can You Find Out?
Brainstorm different ways to find out about the weather.  For example, look on line, look at the newspaper, watch the weather report on television, look out the window, etc.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019


This was always one of my favorite flannel board stories to tell my children. They learned rhymes, colors, sequence, and oral language without realizing it!  

Note!  After I told this story I gave each child a small paper plate and I poured a little milk on it.  They put their hands behind their backs and tried to lap up the milk like little kittens.  This was many years ago, but I bet some of my students still remember being kittens better than the worksheets!

Materials: You will need a small piece of brown, white, black, red, blue, green, orange, purple, and yellow felt. (You can also use colored paper and attach a small piece of Velcro to the back.) For my flannel board I glued a piece of felt to the front of a file folder and stapled the sides. I stored the mittens in the flannel board and glued the words to the back.

Directions: Cut small mittens from the felt. You will need two of each color. Place the mittens on the flannel board as you tell the story below.


The three little kittens lost their mittens, their brand new mittens of blue.
Let’s help the kittens look for their mittens so they won’t go, “Boo hoo!”
We found some mittens just right for kittens by the bedroom light.
“Boo hoo, the mittens are not the right mittens for the are colored white.”
(Place white mittens on the flannel board.)

We found some mittens just right for kittens in our school backpack.
“Boo hoo, the mittens are not the right mittens for they are colored black.”
(Put up the black mittens.)

We found some mittens just right for kittens in the washing machine.
“Boo hoo, the mittens are not the right mittens for they are colored green.”
(Time for the green mittens.)

We found some mittens just right for kittens by the puppet clown.
“Boo hoo, the mittens are not the right mittens for they are colored brown.”
(Now the brown mittens.)

We found some mittens just right for kittens under baby’s bed.
“Boo hoo, the mittens are not the right mittens for they are colored red.”
(Put up the red mittens.)

We found some mittens just right for kittens by the crayon that’s orange.
“Boo hoo, the mittens are not the right mittens for they are colored orange.”
(Orange mittens)

We found some mittens just right for kittens by a box of Jello.
“Boo hoo, the mittens are not the right mittens for they are colored yellow.”
(Yellow mittens)

We found some mittens just right for kittens by the maple syruple.
“Boo hoo, the mittens are not the right mittens for they are colored purple.”
(Purple mittens)

We found some mittens just right for kittens in a tennis shoe.
“Hooray, the mittens are just the right mittens for they are colored blue!”
(Blue mittens)

Hint! After children have heard the story several times, encourage them to fill in the missing color word. You could also pass the mittens out to the children and let them hold up mittens at the appropriate time in the story.

*Hide mittens around the classroom for the children to find.  Ask each child to find one mitten and then match it up with a classmate who has the same color of mitten.

*Sing the song about “The Three Little Kittens” and then let the children act out the song. Choose one child to be the mother and three others to get down on all fours and pretend to be the kittens.

You can download the story here:

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


Don't you just love mittens?  They keep your hands so nice and toasty when it's cold outside.

Mitten Weather
Thumbs in the thumb place      (Stick out thumbs.)
Fingers all together.                  (Put fingers together.)
This is the song
We sing in mitten weather.        (Wiggle palms left and right.)
When it is cold                           (Wrap arms around self and shiver.)
It does not matter whether         (Shake head.)
Mittens are wool                        (Hold out right hand.)
Or made of finest leather.          (Hold out left hand.)

Mitten Applause
This is a quiet way to teach the children to applaud.  Thumbs up and palms open facing each other.  Pretend to clap stopping about 2" from each palm as if wearing mittens.

Visual Matching
Cut mittens out of a wallpaper book or wrapping paper.  Cut two out of each pattern and then mix them up.  Give children clothespins to clip the matching ones together.  Introduce vocabulary to describe various patterns, such as “stripes,” “checked,” “plaid,” “solid,” “polka dots,” “animal print,” etc.

*Make mitten matching games with upper and lowercase letters or with pictures and beginning sounds.

*Make mitten matching games with antonyms or snynonyms.

*How about a matching game with math facts and answers?

Hint! Hang a piece of string between two chairs so the children can hang up their matching mittens.

Kitten Game
One person is “Mama” or “Papa” cat.  “Mama” or “Papa” go out in the hall while the teacher selects 3-5 students to be their kittens.  All students put their heads on their desks.  The students who are kittens begin make quiet “meowing” noises.  “Mama” or “Papa” cat must walk around the room and try to identify their kittens.  When a kitten is found that student puts her hand in the air.  The last kitten to be found becomes the new “Mama” or “Papa” cat.

Mitten Art
Let children trace around mitten patterns and cut out two.  Can they decorate the mittens with crayons or markers so they look exactly the same?   Hole punch around the sides of the mittens and sew with yarn.
Hint!  Wrap the end of the yarn with tape to make it easier to sew.

The Mitten
Select several different versions of “The Mitten” and read them to your class.  Compare and contrast stories and illustrations.  Let the children vote on their favorite.
*This is also a delightful tale to dramatize.  A blanket on the floor works just fine as a mitten.

Monday, January 14, 2019


This was one of the cutest ideas I ever heard about to make a winter day FUN! Peg Caines (Greensboro, NC) shared it with me several years ago. Peg did it with her children, but I think it'd also be fun for teens or adults. What a perfect way to encourage children to cooperate, collaborate, and problem solve!

Build a Snowman
Peg said she gave each group a snowman kit with a construction paper hat, nose, buttons, and mittens. There was also a crepe paper scarf, a roll of masking tape, and a roll of toilet paper. (It took them awhile to figure out what to do with the toilet paper.)         

Snowman’s Mystery Word
Draw a snowman on the board. Think of a word or phrase and put blanks for each letter. Children guess letters (similar to Hangman). The teacher writes the letters on the appropriate spaces. If a letter that is not in the word/phrase the teacher erases part of the snowman and puts the letter in the “trash pile.” Can they decode the word before the snowman is erased?

Disappearing Snowman
Draw a snowman on the board.  If children are noisy or are not following directions explain that you will erase part of the snowman.  Erase one part of the snowman throughout the day as a reminder.  It won't take long before all you have to do is pick up the eraser and they'll be quiet!!!

Melt a Snowman Science Experiment 
*This is such an easy science experiment, but your kids will get a kick out of it.
Give each child a clear cup with an ice cube in it.  Ask them to draw a picture of what it looks like.  Have them predict how many minutes it will take their ice cube to melt.  Encourage them to draw what it looks like after five minute intervals.  Whose ice cube melted the fastest?  Whose lasted the longest?