Friday, July 21, 2017


We’ve always known that repetition is a key to skill mastery. However, if children simply practice reading, or counting, or other skills over and over they will get bored. These fluency cards will engage children by letting them use silly voices and movements as they learn.

These strategies can be used for rereading books, saying poems, reading the word wall, counting, and reviewing numerous skills. If they say it, they will remember it!! 
What? small box or gift bag, copy of fluency cards

How? Write “voice box” on the box or bag. Cut apart the fluency cards and place them in the box. Children choose cards and then practice reading with that “voice.”

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 20, 2017


Today I’ve got some simple “brain toys” that could be used in a variety of ways in your classroom to release energy and promote active learning.


You can get these swim noodles on sale now or at a dollar store. Cut them into 8” - 9” sections and store them in a plastic tub. Pass these out to your students give them a few minutes to “mess around” and pretend they are Luke Skywalker. Explain that whenever you say “Statue of Liberty” they have to freeze and hold their noodle up like a torch.

*Follow the Leader – Play some music and have the students follow along with you as you cross the midline and make other movements with the noodle.

*Air Writing – Use noodles to practice pre-writing strokes, letters, shapes, numerals, and so forth in the air with big movements.

*Massage – Brush noodles down arms or legs. Place the noodle on the floor and roll on it to give yourself a massage.

Therapy Bands
Purchase a large roll of exercise resistance bands and cut it into 18” sections. Cut these in half horizontally and give one to each child. 

*Children can stretch the bands as they extend sounds in a word. 

*Exercise with the bands as you count, say the ABC’s, read word wall words, spell, and so forth. Stretch above your head, behind you, vertically, etc.

Hint! You can purchase rolls of the exercise bands online at Target and many other stores.

Juggling Scarves
You can purchase scarves or buy netting and cut it into 9” squares. Begin by giving each child one square to catch and toss. Let them play catch with a friend. Can they toss it, clap one time, and then catch it? Let them think of other tricks to do with their scarves.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Talk about playful and challenging! Take a look at all these things you can do with toy cars. You can pick them up at garage sales or buy them for $1 or less at a dollar store. Use these cars for centers, games, and other activities in your classroom.

What? toy cars, sticky dots, marker
How? Put sticky dots on the cars and number them 1-10. Fasten your seatbelt and here we go!

Numerical Order
Write numerals on sticky dots and place them on the cars. Can children arrange them in order?

Place Value

Use cars for tens and ones.
Sets and Numbers
Make a parking lot with different sets of dots in each space. Children match up numbers on the cars with the correct space.
Roll and Add
Write numerals 1-12 on a long strip of paper. Children roll two dice, add up the numbers, and then move their car to the correct space.

Ask children to sort the cars. What was their sorting rule? Can they sort them another way?

Write lower letters on sticky dots and put them on the cars. Make paper houses with uppercase letters. Can they match the cars with the houses?
Phonological Awareness
Make a parking lot with three spaces. As you say a word children park the car according to where they hear the sound (beginning, middle, end) of the word.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017


These cheer cards can be used to focus children’s attention and put a smile on their faces. Every child in your classroom can feel good with these cheers.      

What? cheer cards, Cheerios box or Cheer detergent box

How? Introduce one new cheer each day. I’d suggest taking one each day and practicing it all day long. Get a Cheerios box or a Cheer detergent box to save your cheers in. Then when you want to encourage a child have them reach into the “cheer box” and lead the class in that cheer.

I have two different sets of cheer cards so you can choose the one that you like best.         


Here’s the video where you can watch me demonstrate many of the cheers.

Monday, July 17, 2017


This is a useful tool to use with a small group, for independent practice, or work with a partner.

What? cookie tin, magnetic letters

How? Place a set of magnetic letters inside the cookie tin. On the inside cover make three lines with a permanent marker. Have the children take out the letters and place them around the lid. Call out a sound and have the children select that letter and place it on the first line in the lid. Call out a second sound. Call out a third sound. Blend the sounds and read the word.

Hint! Make several of these and use with a guided reading group.

*Use for other phonics lessons. “What other words can you make by changing the first sound?” “Can you make a word by changing the end sound?”

*Older students could use these for spelling words and other word games.

*Store small magnetic letters in a breath mint tin.

*Use magnetic letters on a cookie sheet to make words.

*Hide magnetic letters in a sandbox and let children hunt for them with a magnet.

Sunday, July 16, 2017


Read THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD to your students at the beginning of the school year. Remind them that in your classroom everyone says “I Can” because you are AmeriCANS!

What? Pringle’s can, paper, googly eyes, craft glue (E6000)

How? Cover the can with paper and glue on googly eyes. Pass the “eye can” around the room as each child says a sentence beginning with “I can…”
Hint! If a child says, “I can’t!” just place the can in front of them and remind them that “I can!”

I Think I Can
This is a great song to sing to encourage children to always give it a try. It goes to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
     I think I can are words I like to say.
     I think I can are words I like to say.
     In time I’ll get it right if I try with all my might.
     I think I can are words I like to say.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Play dough is multi-sensory, engaging, creative, and open-ended. Talk about PURPOSEFUL PLAY! These play dough plates are a perfect way to strengthen those small muscles and reinforce letter recognition.

What? plastic plates, play dough, permanent marker

How? Write letters on the plastic plates with a permanent marker. Children roll the play dough and place it on top of the letters. Challenge them to make something that starts with that sound.

Hint! I traced around the letter on the front and back of the plate. You can use upper case letters, lowercase letters, or both like I do.

Number Plates
Write numbers on plastic plates. Children can roll play dough and place it on top of the numbers and then make sets to equal that amount.  Can they make different combinations of six?
Shape Plates
You can also make shape plates for the children to reproduce.

For more simple, playful, meaningful ideas check out

And don't forget to check out our monthly packets filled with songs, literacy, classroom management, QR codes, math, STEM, seasonal ideas, games...and much more!

Friday, July 14, 2017


Good readers are active readers and they are always looking for information. These story sticks will prompt children to listen carefully so they can identify the story elements.

What? jumbo craft sticks, sock, markers

How? Write story elements (Who? What? Where? When? Why?) on sticks with a marker. Place the sticks in the sock and throw the sock over your shoulder before you begin to read. After reading the story, let different students choose a stick and tell that part of the story.

*Make another set of sticks that say “Title,” “Author,” “Illustrator,” “Problem,” “Solution.”
*Write “Setting,” “Characters,” “Beginning,” “Middle,” “End” on sticks.

Who? What? Where? When? Why?
Sing this song to the tune of “Ten Little Indians” before reading a story so children will be looking for the information:
     Who? What? Where? When? Why?
     Who? What? Where? When? Why?
     Who? What? Where? When? Why?
     Ask questions when you read.

I've Got the Whole Story in My Hand
On the fingers of a cotton glove write:  "Who?"  "What?"  "Where?"  "When?"  "Why?"

Sing this song to the tune of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."
     I've got the whole story in my hand.
     I've got the whole story in my hand.
     I've got the whole story in my hand
     And I can read.
     I've got the  "Who?"  "What?"  "Where?"  "When?"  "Why?"
     I've got the  "Who?"  "What?"  "Where?"  "When?"  "Why?"
     I've got the  "Who?"  "What?"  "Where?"  "When?"  "Why?"
     And I can read.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017


Letter Cups
What? plastic cups, permanent markers or letter stickers

How? Write letters on the cups. Children can use these to make high frequency words, match upper and lowercase letters, make CVC words, etc.

*Ask children to stack the cups in alphabetical order.

*Write words on cups and use for making and reading simple sentences.

Hint! Store letter cups in an empty Pringle’s can.

Number Cups

How? Write numbers on cups and ask children to stack them in numerical order.
*Trace around the bottom of a cup on a file folder. Write numerals in the circles. Children match up numbers on cups to those on the file folder.

*Write math facts on the sides of the cups. Write answers on a sticky dot and place them inside the cup. Children say the answer and then check underneath. They can build a pyramid with the cups if they answer correctly.

*Don't forget to sign up for our new blog today at

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


You'll have a happier school year if you go to our new blog and sign up.

Why? familiarity with a keyboard, letter recognition, sight words, sounds

What? shower curtain liner, permanent marker, fly swatter

How? 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.  (Sorry, mine is a little wrinkled from being in the suitcase.)

Place the giant keyboard on the floor or on a bulletin board and let the children use a fly swatter to identify letters. 

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

Have children type out sight words or spelling words.

Hint! Let one child hold a word and check while their partner types it.

More! Run off copies of the keyboard for each child. Glue the keyboard to the bottom of a file folder and tape a clear sheet protector on three sides at the top. Leave the right end open so you can slide in names, sight words, vocabulary, or sentences for the children to practice typing.  (Kalina loved decorating these and playing with them.)

Make individual iPads from pocket folders.  Let children decorate the outside and then glue the keyboard to the inside.  Write letters or words on index cards and place in the pocket.  Children choose a card, place it at the top, and then type accordingly.


Don't forget to check out our new blog  It's the happiest place on the internet!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


Why? letter recognition, phonics, print knowledge

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

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.”

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?

*Children 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?

Make sure to go to our new blog for more ideas.

Monday, July 10, 2017


This is the day we've been waiting for!!! I TEACH K Conference starts this morning and the HAPPIES are going to make their debut this afternoon in the ESGI booth in the exhibit hall. Carolyn Kisloski and I will be there to share some of the activities, answer questions, take pictures, and maybe even sing you a song or say a rhyme. I don't have any sequins to wear and I'd break my neck if I wore stilettos, but I will have a big smile and heart ready to make a new friend!!!

Oh, and I'll have a little "happie" puppet for each of you!
This is also the launch of the new blog that Carolyn and I are doing. Go to and we'll send you a "happie" idea every day.
A happie a day keeps the humbugs away!

Here's the link so you can attend the conference "virtually" with ESGI:

Check out the complete set of "happies" at these locations:


Why? tracking left to right, details in illustrations, finger spacing

What? novelty pencils and pointers, cup

How? Collect seasonal and novelty pencils and keep them in a cup on your desk or at the reading table. Have children use these to read, find letters in their names, punctuation, nouns, verbs, vocabulary words, details in illustrations, and so forth.
Pretzel Sticks - Give children pretzel sticks to follow along as they read, and then they can eat them.

Bugles - Let children insert Bugles on their index finger to “track and eat.”

Wiggly Eye - Glue a wiggly eye to a craft stick and “keep your eye on the word.”

Fake Fingernail – Glue a fake fingernail to a craft stick. Children can point to words or use it to “finger” space.

Magic Wand - Let children take a chopstick and dip one end in glue and then roll in glitter.

Witch’s Nail – Purchase Halloween fingers to use as you read.

Sticker Pointers – Place stickers at the end of craft sticks. Adapt stickers to poems or stories that you read.
Drink Stirrers – Look for seasonal drink stirrers that children would enjoy using to read and track print.

Large Pointers - This pointer can be used for large group activities.  Cover a cardboard roller from a pants hanger with aluminum foil. Dip one end in glue and roll in glitter.  Taa daa!