Sunday, September 30, 2012


I’m doing the happy dance because I finally finished my math activities for my October website.  Whew!  If I’d known how much time “Dancing with Standards” was going to take I might not have started the project last spring.

Let me be real honest with you.  I was stabbing in the dark with some of the math standards.  I’ve been an educator for over 40 years and I have a Ph. D. in curriculum and instruction, but I was confused with some of the wording and expectations.  I did the best I could to come up with meaningful activities – just like you do your best each day.  However, if anyone has any insight or suggestions, I’m all ears.

A teacher at a workshop years ago said she goes around her classroom and places her palm on children’s foreheads as she says, “I think you’ve got it!”  “I think you’ve got it!”  “I think you’ve got it, too!”  Soon all of the children are asking, “Do I have it?”  After touching all of their foreheads and confirming they have “it” she explains that it’s MATH FEVER!  “Everyone in our room is excited about math and good at math!  That’s why you’ve all got MATH FEVER!”
This story reminds us that attitude determines altitude.  If you tell children that math is fun and that they are good at it, they will believe you!  I hope some of you and your students will catch math fever with the activities on my October website!

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Here’s an article I just finished for an online magazine.  It’s a reminder to shut your door and sing LOUD!

I was a lucky little girl.  You see, when I grew up we didn’t have television, computers, or videos.  I was left to my imagination and my little record player.  I can remember sitting for hours on the floor of our dining room with my red and yellow records singing “I’m a Little Teapot” and “Pop Goes the Weasel.”  My mother didn’t realize it at the time, but that was one of the best activities for stimulating my brain and developing my literacy skills.  She just knew it entertained me and made me happy.

The world has changed a great deal over the past sixty years, but children today are very similar to the little girl I once was.  They LOVE music! There’s nothing like a good song to put a smile on a child’s face.  There’s nothing more rewarding than to see their eyes dance and say, “Do it again!”  And there is nothing you can say or “teach” a child that will stay in their heart like a song.

According to accumulating brain research, music is one of the most powerful learning tools.  Here are ten great reasons to sing with children:

  1. Music is multi-sensory.  The more senses you get going to the brain, the more likely the message will get there.
  2. If children are exposed to concepts while singing, it is easier for them to learn when formally introduced.
  3. Music activates the brain.  It can be used as an “indicator” to help children know what to expect and energize learning.
  4. Music nurtures phonological awareness (alliteration, rhyme, etc.).
  5. Songs and chants are a natural way to develop oral language, auditory memory, and fluency.
  6. Poems and songs lay a foundation for common knowledge.
  7. Children are able to use their imaginations and create pictures in their brains when they sing.  This is an important part of reading comprehension.
  8. Repetition is a key to learning.  It is much more fun to repeat songs than worksheets!
  9. Singing and dancing relieve stress and oxygenate the brain.
  10. Through music and movement ALL children can feel successful.
But nobody sings anymore!  There is a whole generation who doesn’t know nursery rhymes or traditional tunes.  The good news is you can put music back in your children’s lives and it won’t cost you a thing.  You don’t need to be a rock star; you don’t need to play an instrument; you don’t even need an iPod.  Just open your mouth and SING!  Sing in the morning, sing when you clean up, sing during transitions, sing at the end of the day.  Sing, sing, sing!

Here are some of my favorites I’ve sung over the years as a child, teacher, and parent.  If you aren’t familiar with these tunes, there’s probably a video on the internet that can teach you.  Look in your own memory bank for songs you remember from school, camp, or scouts.  Share them!  Keep them alive!

SKIP TO MY LOU                    IF YOU’RE HAPPY


MUFFIN MAN                         MULBERRY BUSH

BINGO                                     ROW YOUR BOAT






THE MOUNTAIN                     RAILROAD


THIS OLD MAN                      FARMER IN THE DELL






Think of these songs as special “gifts” your children can keep in their hearts
and open again and again all their lives.  Someone once said, “People sing
because they’re happy, and they’re happy because they sing!”  Come on! 
Get happy and SING!

Friday, September 28, 2012


(Tune:  “Skip to My Lou”)
Children stand up and stretch out their arms like a scarecrow.
They repeat each line as they make the appropriate movements.
Can you turn around?                   I can turn around.
Can you touch the ground?           I can touch the ground.
Can you wiggle your nose?                 
Can you touch your toes?
Can you wave up high?
Can you let your arms fly?
Can you give a clap?
Can you give a snap?
Can you jump, jump, jump?
Can you thump, thump, thump?
Can you wiggle your knees?
Can you sit down, please?              Yes, yes, indeed!  (Children sit down.)
*Note!  You can either sing or say this chant.

Scarecrow Picture Talk- Download a picture of a scarecrow from the internet.  Discuss what a scarecrow does.  How many details can children notice about the scarecrow?  Draw lines to label their descriptions.
Scarecrow Collage – Give children fabric scraps, construction paper, straw, etc. and invite them to create a scarecrow.  What is their scarecrow’s name?

Class Scarecrow – Some old clothes, newspaper, and paper grocery sack will work just fine for a classroom scarecrow.  Stuff newspaper in the sack and gather the bottom with a rubber band to make a head.  Add a face.  Let the children wad up newspaper and stuff the clothes.  Sit it up in a chair and prop up the head with a dowel rod.  Have the children bring in gloves, a hat, boots, etc. from home to complete the scarecrow.  Write stories about the scarecrow.  What would you do if you were a scarecrow?

Scarecrow Sandwich – Cut a circle out of a piece of bread.  Tint cream cheese yellow with food coloring and spread it on the circle.  Grate carrots and use for the hair.  Raisins can be added for eyes and a mouth.  Add a candy corn for a nose and enjoy!

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Paying too much attention to children when they tell on others can be like a wild fire that is difficult to stop.  Here are a few suggestions that teachers have shared with me over the past several years.  (You will definitely smile as you read some of them!)  There are lots of choices, so pick and adapt the one that works best for your personality, the age of your students, and your school.

A good place to start is to have a discussion about things that are an emergency and things that they think are important.  Make a list on the board of “emergencies” (when someone gets hurt or sick, when someone is in danger, etc.) and “concerns” (someone calls you a name, someone gives you a mean look, etc.)  Role play different scenarios or use a puppet to demonstrate what children should do.  Choose one of these alternatives for children when they need to express a concern.

*Get a spiral notebook and write “Things the Teacher Needs to Know” on the cover.  When children start to tattle hand them the book and say, “Write it all down.  And don’t leave out a thing!”
*Pick up some old tax forms at the library.  When children start to tattle hand them a form and tell them to fill it out and then bring it back to you.

*Put an old cell phone on your desk.  When children start to complain tell them to put it on your phone.  Explain that you’ll listen to your messages later.

*Put a picture of the President (or your principal) on your wall.  Send them to the President to tell their complaints because “he’s much more important than I am!”

*Take a shoebox and cut a slit in the cover.  Write “suggestion box” on it and place it on a shelf with a notepad and a pencil.  Discuss how children can write or draw pictures of their suggestions and place them in the box.  Be sure to use the box to prompt class problem solving at least once a week.

*Use a stuffed animal to listen to complaints.  Explain that (Tattle Teddy, Tell Me All - Allie the Alligator, or whatever you want to call the animal) is always sitting on the shelf waiting to listen to them.

*Giant Ear – Download a picture of an ear from the internet and enlarge it.  Tape it to a wall and send children to the ear to whisper their concerns.

*Oreo – When children want to tattle they hold open both hands.  They must say two nice things about the person before they tell you the negative.

*Lunch Bag – Open a lunch bag and put it on your desk.  When children start to tattle tell them to “put it in the bag.”  (Yes, they will actually go to the bag and talk in it!)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I’m busy working on my monthly activities for October, and I couldn’t wait to share this idea.  I know many of you are already on your 20+ day of school, but this little critter is worth backing up and adding to your classroom.  What a visual way to reinforce the standard of “count to 100 by tens and ones.”

Make a caterpillar head and then let one student put up a number each day.  (You’ll have to backtrack here, but it will be a good review.)  Make the 5’s red and the 10’s blue.  How many days have you been in school so far?  You can decide each day if you will count by 1’s, 5’s, or 10’s.  Make a special 100 circle.
*Hint!  This will cover over 2 walls so put it up high in your classroom.
*Let your students name the caterpillar to give it a little more personality.
The Bundle Dance
Many of you add a stick each day and then bundle them on the tenth day.  Here’s a song to sing on the 10th day.  Put your hands over your head and turn in a circle as you chant, “Bundle, bundle, bundle.  Bundle, bundle, bundle.”

Counting with Style
Count each “ten” with a different style.
Quiet 1’s (Whisper)
Terrible Teens (Growl)
Roaring 20’s (Loud)
Twisty 30’s (Do the twist)
Jumpy 40’s (Jump)
Flying 50’s (Spread arms)
Snapping 60’s (Snap fingers)
Spooky 70’s (Ghost voice)
Flipping 80’s (Pretend to flip pancakes)
Laughing 90’s (Hold stomach and laugh)
Jump and Cheer for 100!!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


It’s terrific Tuesday, and we have a TERRIFIC, free download for you!  You’ll have to go to my home page ( and click on the “Nursery Rhyme Printables” in the upper right corner.  Click on the “free sample” and you’ll have books, song cards, and a free download of “Jack and Jill.”  Try this one out in your classroom, and if the children enjoy it, we hope you’ll order the whole set.
Vanessa Levin ( and I have been working on these Nursery Rhyme Readers for months because we know the importance of putting a book in every child’s hands.  Research continually validates the importance of the home-school connection, and these books are a tangible way to put literacy in the home.

Since Common Core State Standards are foremost in everyone’s minds these days,  Rhyming Readers can be a meaningful and natural way to develop these skills:

FLUENCY AND ORAL LANGUAGE- Use these books for small group instruction or a large group “shared reading” activity.
         Choral Reading – Read together as you point to the words.
         Shadow Reading – The teacher reads a line and then the children
         repeat the same line.
         Take a Turn – The teacher reads a line and then the children read the next line and so forth.
         Magic Word – Select a special word in the text.  Every time you come to that word the children clap their hands or shout it out.

PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS - Make a list of words that rhyme.  Circle the letters that are the same.  Can the children think of additional words that end with the same sound?
Identify words that begin with the same sound.
Clap, jump, or snap to the beat of the rhyme.

PUNCTUATION – Use a highlighter to circle capital letters and punctuation.

VOCABULARY  - When you come to unfamiliar words in rhymes model looking up definitions in a dictionary.

COMPREHENSION – Discuss the characters, setting, problem, resolution, etc. in the nursery rhyme. 
What happened first, next, last?  What do you think will happen next?

PRINT CONCEPTS – Track the words from left to right and top to bottom.  Identify letters in the rhymes.

WORD RECOGNITION – Identify high frequency words in rhymes.

SPEAKING AND LISTENING – Encourage children to repeat rhymes independently.   Can they answer and ask questions about rhymes? 

KEY IDEAS AND DETAILS – Compare and contrast rhymes. 
Describe the relationship between illustrations and rhymes.

Monday, September 24, 2012


You know I’m a sucker for anything about the brain.  If the word “brain” is in the title of a book or magazine article, I’m all over it.  Why?  The brain is where learning takes place.  The more we know about the brain, the more effective we can be as educators.  (I’m smiling because the more I read about the brain the more I realize a lot of this is common sense.)  However, brain research validates best practices that good teachers have always employed.

So, this week when I was working out I noticed the latest READER’S DIGEST on the shelf.  Ah!  Another article about the brain – “Build a Better Brain.”  You might want to read it yourself, but I’ll give you a synopsis just in case.
The Importance of Short Term Memory
Initial research seems to indicate that memory training can actually boost IQ.  Eric Kandel of Columbia University shared, “If you really work on memory by, for instance, memorizing poetry…”  I shouldn’t take this out of context, but it makes sense that finger plays, songs, chants, and nursery rhymes are the essence of this in pre-K and kindergarten.

Pay Attention, Get Smart
Attention is another brain element that you can train.  Hocus, pocus, everybody focus!

Aerobic Exercise
Exercise for the body and exercise for the brain.  You learn on your feet, not on your seat.  Do I sound like a broken record?

Now we’re getting down to the point of this blog.  I called it napper snappers because many of you have administrators who have banned rest time.  Researchers have found “that a midday nap may not merely restore brain power but also raise it.”  Children need a quiet time every day.  You don’t have to put out cots or mats, but 10-15 minutes with the lights off and peaceful music would be like a breath of fresh air for those little brains that are working so hard. 

Let the brain idle because brain rest supports creativity.

A Second Language
“The workout the prefrontal cortex gets in bilingualism carries over to other functions…”  That is really good news for children who have different languages in their home and school! 

I’ll skip the “Caffeine” and “Foods and Spices” because that doesn’t really relate to the classroom.

Six Ways to Get Smarter Instantly
  1. Take Tae Kwon Do or dance.  (Love to dance even though I’m not good at it.)
  2. Download the TED App  (Technology, Entertainment, Design – I have no idea about this, but I plan to check it out.)
  3. Build a memory palace.  (Technique for remembering.)
  4. Write by hand.  (Swiping across the screen will never replace picking up a pencil.)
  5. Delay gratification.  (More about this when I focus on the executive function in November.)
  6. Write reviews online.  (How this relates to the brain I have no idea???)
If I’ve sparked some interest, check out the October issue of READER’S DIGEST and learn more.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Everyone knows THE GIVING TREE by Shel Silverstein.  I used to read it to my class and I would get weepy, while they would say, “Why did he have to get old?”  They just didn’t get the aging thing, but it was a perfect time to talk about all the gifts that trees give us.

Today I have a tree for you that you can use in a multitude of ways in your classroom.  All it takes is a lunch bag and a little creativity.  Tear (or cut) four strips from the top of the bag to the flap.  Open.  Squeeze the middle of the bag and twist.  There’s your tree and here are some possibilities…
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Tree – Let children write letters or use letter stickers to make an alphabet tree.

Orchard – What are some different things that grow on trees?  Children can draw or cut fruits and nuts out of construction paper and make their favorite tree.

Word Family Tree – Children choose a rime and then write all the words they can think of that end with that sound.

Family Tree – Children write the names of people in their family on the tree.

Spooky Tree – Twist the ends of each strip to look like old limbs.  You can add bats or owls if you like.

Seasonal Tree – Children tear pieces of orange, red, and yellow paper and glue to the strips to make an autumn tree.
Dip a sponge in white paint and use like snow to make a winter tree.

Tear pink or white tissue paper into small pieces and wad up.  Glue to the limbs to make a spring tree.

Paint the strips green to make a summer tree.  Add birds or butterflies.

Fall Centerpiece – Here’s an idea for you if for a party this fall.  Use a large brown grocery bag to make a tree.  Add autumn leaves to the base of the tree or hang Halloween ornaments on the tree.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Leaves Are Falling
(Tune:  “London Bridge”)
Leaves are falling  (Echo song.  Children repeat each line.)
Leaves are falling   (Flutter fingers down.)
To the ground.       (Touch the ground.)
To the ground.
Red, orange, and yellow  (Flutter fingers.)
Red, orange, and yellow
Falling down.          (Touch the ground.)
Falling down.
*Let children dramatize being leaves and dancing in the wind.  As the song ends they fall quietly to the ground.
*What happens to leaves after they fall from the trees?  Later in the fall when there are lots of leaves on the ground demonstrate how to pick up a handful of leaves and crumple them in your hands.  Explain how those leaves will decay and turn into soil.

It’s Fall
(Tune:  “It’s Raining”)
It’s fall, it’s fall,
The best season of all.
Pumpkins, scarecrows,
Football, too.
A special time for me and you.

Why do you think they call this season “fall”?  What’s another name for fall?
What season comes before fall?  What season comes after fall?  Fall is a cool off time between hot summer and cold winter.

Signs of Fall
Brainstorm signs of fall and write them on the board.  What kind of clothes do we wear in fall?  What’s the weather like in the fall?  Are there any special seasonal foods we eat?  What kind of sports are popular in fall?   What holidays do we celebrate in the fall?  What do animals do to get ready for winter?  What do plants do in the fall?
*Let children make an attribute web and label it with pictures of words of things that remind them of fall.

Nature Walk
Go on a nature walk and look for signs of fall.  Provide children with tablets, paper, and pencils so they can record their “observations” on the walk. 

I Like Autumn Language Experience Chart
Let children dictate sentences about why they like autumn.  Older children could write their own original stories about, “Fall, Fall, Best of All!” 

Acrostic Poem
Write the words “fall” or “autumn” vertically down the side of a sheet of paper.  Children think of a word that starts with each letter that relates to fall.
Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you how to make this.  
I'm feeling very Martha Stewarty!

Friday, September 21, 2012


Here I am in my sixties and I still have to look at my rings to know my left from my right!  I jokingly blame it on my kindergarten teacher Mrs. Myers because she’d say, “Show me your right hand” and it would look like my left hand.  The truth is that we need to remember to reverse movements when we model for children.  If we say show me your right hand, we actually have to hold up our left hand.  When we demonstrate how to make the numeral 3 in the air, we must do it backwards.  Confusing, I know, but with a little practice you’ll be a pro.  Another tip is to focus on the right hand.  Then what is leftover is always their “left.”

Sticker - Put a sticker on each child’s right hand and then play “Simon Says” or the “Hokey Pokey.”
Lotion - Rub lotion or scented lip balm on each child’s right hand.

Bracelet – Let children make bracelets out of pipe cleaners and wear them on their right hand.  Throughout the day call attention to their right hand…right ear…right leg…right foot, etc.

Flag – Trace around your right hand on construction paper and cut it out.  Place it near the flag so children can visually match up their right hand and then place it over their hearts.

Poem - Hold up your hands and stick out thumbs and index fingers as you say:        
         Which is my left?  Which is my right?
         Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
         But when I stick my thumbs out straight,
         My left will make an “L.”
Song - Teach children this song to the tune of “Up on the Housetop.”
         Here is my right hand way up high.  (Hold up right hand.)
         Here is my left hand touch the sky.  (Hold up left.)
         Right and left and roll out of sight.  (Roll hands around.)
         Now I know my left and right.  (Hold up left and then right.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Color words are some of the first words we introduce to children.  Here’s a new song children can sing as they hold up various crayons from their box.

Color Box
(Tune:  “Happy Birthday”)
Here’s a crayon for you.  (Pretend to hold a present in your hand.)
It’s a blue one for you.    (Hold up a blue crayon.)
B – l – u – e.
Here’s blue for you.

Here’s a crayon for you.
It’s a red one for you...

Continue sing yellow, green, purple, brown, black, white, etc.
P.S.  This song is going to be on my new “Move It!  Learn It!” CD.

*When introducing color words, write the word with the appropriate color.  After they are confident, write all of the words with a black marker. 

*There are tons of free graphics that you can download to make visuals for this song.

Touch Something
Hold up a color word.  Can they touch something in the room that color?

Sign Language
Learn the signs for the various colors. 
(,, or are great sites.)

Crayon Book
Fold two sheets of paper in half and cut.  Fold these in half.  Hole punch 2” from each end.  Insert a rubber band in one hole and slip the end of a crayon through that loop.  Insert the other end of the rubber band through the other hole and slip the other end of the crayon through that loop.  Encourage the children to use a different color on each page.  Can they write labels for each page?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


A Coloring We’ll Go
(Tune:  “A Hunting We Will Go”)
A coloring we’ll go.
A coloring we’ll go.
Hi ho, it’s fun you know,
A coloring we’ll go.

Use straight and curvy lines.
Use straight and curvy lines.
With yellow, purple, green, and orange,
We’ll make our picture fine.       (Chorus)

The details we will draw.
The details we will draw.
Imagine all the little things.
The details we will draw.           (Chorus)

We’ll fill in the page.
We’ll fill in the page.
Use as many colors
As you are in age.

A coloring we’ll go.
A coloring we’ll go.
We’ll put them in the box and close the top
When we’re through, you know.
*Run off a black and white copy of a picture and a color copy.  Show these to the class and encourage their comments.  Which one do they like best?  Why?  Have them draw a picture using a black crayon.  Then ask them to draw the same picture using all the colors. 
*A good rule of thumb is to encourage them to use as many colors as they are in age.  If they only use two colors you might say, “Oh, are you only two years old today?”  They’ll quickly return to their seats and add a few more colors!
*Remind children before drawing to close their eyes and get a picture of what they want to create in their heads.  Think about it before you begin drawing.
*How many details can you add?  Can you fill in the whole page so that no “daylight” (aka paper) is showing?
*If you have “orphan crayons” (aka crayons found on the floor) you can create a special lost and found box for them.
*Altoid tins and mini m&m containers are good for storing crayons when the box falls apart.