Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Elephants are amazing creatures. I read a book called ELEPHANT BILL about how elephants were used in Burma in WWII - absolutely fascinating! I never knew that elephants have feelings and protect each other's children just like humans.

Here's a silly elephant puppet that my children always enjoyed making. There's nothing like putting a puppet on your hand to tell a story or sing a song.
Materials: old socks, paper plates, crayons, brad fasteners, gray construction paper.
Hint! Ask each child to bring in an old sock. This shouldn't be too difficult because everyone has a lost sock or two.

Directions:  Cut 2 ears out of the gray construction paper. Cut a circle large enough for the child’s hand out of the middle of the paper plate. (Color the plate gray if you desire.) Draw a face on the plate as shown. Attach the 2 ears to the sides of the plate with brad fasteners. Insert the hand in the sock and then stick the sock through the back of the plate to create the elephant’s nose.

What a Nose!
(Tune: "I'm a Little Teapot" - Dr. Jean & Friends CD)
Elephants walk like this and that. (Stick out one arm like a trunk and stomp
from side to side.)
They’re terribly big and terribly fat. (Arms out wide.)
They have no hands. (Hold up hands and shake head no.)
They have no toes. (Point to feet and shake head no.)
But, goodness, gracious, what a nose! (Stick out arm like a trunk.)

One Elephant Went out to Play
One elephant went out to play - (Hold up one finger.)
Out on a spider's web one day. (Roll hands around.)
She had such enormous fun. (Stick arms out wide.)
She called for another elephant to come. (Cup arms by mouth.)
Two elephants went out to play.... (Hold up two fingers.)

*Let children act out this rhyme. The first child chooses the second child. The second child chooses the third child, etc.
*What does "enormous" mean? What are other things that are enormous?
*Could an elephant really play on a spider's web? Why not?
CD Puppet
You can also make an elephant puppet from an old CD. Draw a face on the CD with permanent markers. Tape on construction paper ears and let the children insert their index finger in the hole to make a trunk. (Obviously, my big finger was too large for the hole!)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Some things like animal crackers never go out of style!

Animal Crackers
By Dr. Holly
Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh, my!
In my box that’s what I spy.
Take them out.
Should I run?
No, I’ll eat them!
Yum! Yum! Yum!

Pass out an animal cracker to each child. Encourage them to write descriptive sentences about their cracker. I see… I smell… I feel… I hear… I taste!
Tag Along Book
Cut the front and back off a box of animal crackers. (Be sure and leave the string attached.) Cut paper the size of the box. Give each child a sheet and ask them to draw a zoo animal or write a description of a zoo animal. Put their pictures between the front and back of the box and staple to make a book.
Hint! This is called a tag along book because they can hold it and it will tag along with them!

Use zoo animal plates for simple addition. Children make sets in each ear and then join them together and count the sum. You can use math counters, buttons, popcorn, or cereal.
What does it mean to be a carnivore? Herbivore? Omnivore? What are you? Do some research to find out eating habits of different zoo animals.

Use animal crackers, toy animals, or pictures to sort zoo animals. Ask children what sorting rule they used. Can they think of another way to sort the animals?

Put Me in the Zoo
Do a language experience chart where children fill in the sentence:
If I were in the zoo I would be…
Let them draw pictures of which animal they would like to be. Why did they choose that animal?

Zoo Treats
You will need graham crackers, animal crackers, and peanut butter to make this snack. Children put a small amount of peanut butter on the graham cracker and stand animal cookies up on it.
*You can using icing or honey for children with peanut allergies.

Monday, May 22, 2017


I love to go to the zoo.  I hope I never lose the thrill of seeing the animals and watching what they will do to entertain the people.  Whether you take a real trip to the zoo or an imaginary trip on the internet, over the next three days you’ll find some activities that children will enjoy.  These ideas could also be related to literature, such as making the elephant puppet when you read HORTON HEARS A WHO.  Other ideas could be adapted to literature standards (poems or riddles about zoo animals) or informative writing (habitats, body covering, babies, food).

We’re Going to the Zoo
(Tune:  “The Bear Went over the Mountain”)
We’re going to the zoo.
We’re going to the zoo.
We’re going to the zoo.
Won’t you come, too?
The elephants swing their trunks.  (Stick out one arm like a trunk
The elephants swing their trunks.   and stomp from side to side.)
The elephants swing their trunks.
And we can do it, too.

*Insert other animal names and these motions:
Kangaroos jump around…  (Bend elbows like paws and jump.)
Bears put all fours on the ground…(Put hands and feet on ground and walk.)
Giraffes walk on tippy toes…(Stretch neck and walk on toes.)
Zebras gallop to and fro…(Gallop in place.)
Snakes slither and wiggle…(Wiggle as you go up and down.) 
Penguins wobble and jiggle…(Palms out by sides and wobble.)

Guess Who?
Let children take turns pantomiming different zoo animals as their friends try and guess who they are.
Zoo Animal Puppets
Let children create their favorite zoo animal from a lunch bag, paper plate, craft stick, or envelope.
Animal Cheers
Seal of Approval – Extend arms in front of you and cross them over each other.  Clap as you make a barking noise.
Elephant Cheer  - Stick one arm out straight from under your chin.  Put top lips over bottom lip as you blow and make a trumpeting sound.
Snake Cheer – Palms folded together next to your chest.  Keeping them together wiggle them out as you make a “Ssssss” sound.  Stick your tongue quickly in and out of your mouth.
Tiger Cheer – You’re GGGRRREEEAAATTT!  (Stick fist in the air.)

Imagination Bag
Give each child an empty lunch bag.  Demonstrate how to open the bag and ask them to do the same.  Explain that you are going to take an imaginary trip to the zoo.  Ask them to look in their bags to see what they can find.  Encourage children to name the animals in their bag as they create an imaginary zoo on the floor in front of them.

Matching Game
Make a matching game where children match up mother zoo animals and their babies.  Can they tell you the names for the different animal babies?  
*You could also play a memory game with these cards.
Hint!  I found my pictures at google images.

Sunday, May 21, 2017


What better place to do REAL writing about REAL experiences than out on the playground!

Cut 5" off the top of lunch bags.  Give children scrap paper and markers to decorate like a camera.  (Oops!  Some of them might not know about cameras any more so you might need to explain that to them!!)  Punch holes and tie on string so the camera can be worn around the neck.  Cut 4 1/2" squares and place inside the camera.  Take children on an nature walk and invite them to take "photos" of things they see.  When you return to the classroom ask them to draw their favorite thing on the paper in their camera.  Next, ask  them to write or dictate a sentence about their "photo."
*Note!  Tie this into science themes by having them take "photos" of signs of summer, animal homes, living objects, and so forth.
Opinion - What I Like to Do Outside

Make blank books by folding two sheets of paper in half and stapling the side. Give children the books, something to write on, and inspire them by sitting under a tree on the playground. 

Descriptive – My Senses
Prepare a worksheet with the following: 

I see _______. 
I hear _______. 
I smell _______. 
I touch ______. 

Give children a clipboard and encourage them to explore the playground as they fill in the blanks (write or draw pictures). Let children share their findings with classmates and then put their pages together to make a class book.
Narrative - Cartoon

Prepare cartoon frames for children with 3 or 4 sections. Have them use the cartoon frames to illustrate something they have done outside. Demonstrate how to add dialogue bubbles so the characters can talk.

I Wonder Research

Make “thinking pads” for children by cutting paper into fourths and stapling several sheets together. Explain that you will take a “wonder walk” on the school grounds. If they see something they’d like to know more about, they can draw a picture or write it on their thinking pads. Let children share what they recorded when you return to the classroom. Brainstorm how they can find out more about their topic. 
*Let them do “research” with their parents for homework.


Saturday, May 20, 2017


The sun is shining so let’s take state standards out on the playground for some counting and cardinality. 

Number Hunt 
Take lunch sacks and write different numerals on them. Give each child a bag and ask them to make that set and put it in the bag. Let children share what they have found with their friends. Have children return the objects to where they found them. 
*This can also be done with a partner or in small groups. 
Hint! Whenever collecting things outside remind the children to only pick up items off the ground. You never want to pull leaves or flowers off plants because it might hurt them. 
Children can count trees, fence posts, balls, bushes, and many other items on the playground. 
*Have children estimate how many and then verify their guess by counting. 
Exercise and Count 
Have children count how many times they can jump rope. How many jumping jacks can they do? How many times can they bounce and catch a ball without dropping it? 

Dot to Dot 
Take chalk and write numerals 0-20 randomly on a hard play surface. Children start with zero and run, hop, march, or skip to each numeral in order. 
*Adapt the amount to the ability of your students. 
Fill a basket with rocks, pinecones, leaves, or other natural objects. Ask the children to estimate how many there are. Count the objects. Who guessed more? Who guessed less? Who was closest? 

Collect 5 or 6 leaves, rocks, sticks or other natural objects. Place a leaf, then a rock, a leaf, then a rock. “What will come next?” Let children make up their own patterns with objects in nature. 

Addition & Subtraction 
Work out addition and subtraction problems with sticks, leaves, and other natural objects.

Draw basic geometric shapes (square, triangle, rectangle, oval, rhombus, circle) on 6” cardboard squares. Pass out the shapes and challenge the children can find something on the playground with a similar shape. 
*Divide children into small groups and let them make shapes with their bodies on the grass.

Give children rulers to measure objects on the playground. “Can you find something 2” long? Can you find something smaller than an inch? What’s longer than 5”? How can you measure the slide?”
*Give children a popsicle stick or piece of string and ask them to find something longer, shorter, the same size, etc.
Position I Spy! 
Children use positional words to play “I Spy” on the playground. For example: I spy something beside the slide. I spy something behind the tree. I spy something above the sidewalk. I spy something between the big tree and the fence…

Ask children to collect different items on the playground. (This will vary with the season and your habitat.) Put their objects together in a big pile. Ask the children to sort the objects. What was their sorting rule?

Collect sticks of different lengths and have the children put them in order from smallest to largest.
*They could also seriate leaves, rocks, etc.

Ask each child to find a leaf on the playground. Make a graph and have the children lay their leaf in the appropriate space. Compare quantities.

Friday, May 19, 2017


Sometimes you just have to think outside the box to make standards more fun!

R.L. 5. Reading Tree 
Choose a poetry book, storybook, and non-fiction book to read outside under a shady tree. Can the children identify the books?

R.L. 10 Reading Buddies 
Divide children into pairs and let them each choose a favorite book. Go out on the playground, find a shady spot, and enjoy sharing their books with each other.
*Encourage them to ask each other questions about the books they read.

RF. 1.d Alphabet Walk
Write letters on a paved surface with chalk. Challenge the children to step on the letters as they name them. Can they think of something that starts with each sound.

RF. 3.c Word Hopscotch 
Draw a hopscotch grid on a paved surface. Write high frequency words in each section. Children hop on the spaces as they read the words.

SL. 2.a Talking Stick 
Choose a stick on the playground and then have the children sit in a circle under a tree. Explain that you will start a story. As you pass the stick around, the child holding the stick can add to the story. Only the person holding the stick is allowed to talk. You might want to start a story about the day a space ship landed on the playground or the day animals started to talk.
L.1.e Prepositions on the Move
Using playground equipment, call out various prepositions, such as on, off, over, under, by, between, to, from for the children to demonstrate.
L.5.b We Can Do Opposites 
Gather children around playground equipment and tell them you will call out a word. Can they demonstrate the opposite? For example, if the teacher said down, the children would climb up. If the teacher said front, the children would move to the back. Other words could be over, behind, inside, and so forth.

L.5.d Verb Relays 
Divide children into relay teams. The teacher names a verb and the children act out the meaning until everyone on their team has completed the movement. For example, you could have them walk, march, strut, prance, and so forth.

*It's a good way to integrate synonyms!

Thursday, May 18, 2017


I first heard about Forest Schools several months ago. The topic has come up in several other conversations so I wanted to learn more about it. You might be interested as well because its popularity seems to be growing. I think it represents a swing to balance technology and the academic push with real and natural experiences. I embrace the idea of more hands-on outdoor learning, but I’m not sure it is in harmony with our data driven curriculum. I tend to be a middle of the road person, but let me share what I’ve found out and you can make your own decisions.
Forest schools originated in Scandinavia and became popular in Denmark in the 1980’s because of lack of space for preschool children. With increased urbanization and “nature deficit disorder” the popularity of these schools has grown from Sweden, to Denmark, to Germany, to the United Kingdom and now the United States.

Most forest schools are for ages three to six and are held almost exclusively outdoors – regardless of the weather. Children are encouraged to dress appropriately (waterproof clothing, warm layers) and play and learn in a natural setting. Woodlands, meadows, and beaches can all provide the learning environment, but no commercial toys or materials are used.
Forest schools seem to have a positive impact on children’s physical and emotional development. See the chart below for how the outdoor activities benefit development.

Developmental benefit
Playing imaginative games using whatever resources and ideas come to mind
This helps children to explore their own thoughts without the guidance of a toy designer
Role play
Shared imagination, drama, teamwork, recollection of models of behaviour
Building shelters or other large structures from branches, with the help of other children and adults
This requires goal definition, planning, engineering, teamwork and perseverance
Counting objects or looking for mathematical patterns
Mathematics, visual recognition
Memory games using naturally available objects
Memory, naming objects
Listening to stories; singing songs and rhymes
Art, drama, concentration
Arranging items to make a picture, or building a toy
Drawing scenes
Art, creativity, accurate inspection and copying
Climbing trees and exploring the forest
Improves strength, balance and physical awareness
Playing hide-and-seek with others
Develops children's theory of mind by rewarding accurate anticipation of the thoughts and actions of others
Walking to the woodland, from the building.
Improves strength and stamina; preparation (e.g., route selection) improves planning and communication skills
Exploring or reflecting alone
Aids self-awareness and character development
Aids consolidation of memories and facilitates activities later in the day

I think we would all agree that children need to spend more time outdoors. Forest schools sound “lovely,” but how can you judge children by a standardized test when they are building forts and making mud pies?

One compromise I read about was a school that spent one day a week in nature. Another school schedules one hour a day outdoor for each class. One other teacher reported doing hour-long nature hikes one day a week. Yes, but what if you don't have a woodland or meadow near your school?  
I would love to hear from any of you who are doing more “outdoor learning.” 

I’ll be sharing some outdoor activities over the next few days, but it’s basically taking academics outdoors. I think at the heart of forest schools is the belief that children should have freedom to explore, create, and learn on their own.  Balance, balance, balance!!!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


Everybody wants to be appreciated!  Here are some clever ideas for awards you can give volunteers or school helpers at the end of the year.  

Kudos Bar – “Kudos to you!”
Snickers – “Nuts about you!”
100 Grand – “A million thanks for all you did!”
M & M’s – “You’re marvelous and magnificent.”
Mint – “You ‘mint’ the world to us.”

Hershey’s Kisses – and Hugs, too!
Lifesavers – “You were a lifesaver this year!”

There are also several free websites where you can customize candy bar wrappers.
Here are some certificates that Carolyn Kisloski created.

If you want more you can download the whole set for less than one card costs.  Hmmm!  That's a good idea!  I think I'll get them for neighbors and friends!


Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Here are some theme days to help you celebrate the last days of the school year. You might want to make each Friday a party day, or plan a little celebration every day the last week of school. What many adults forget is that children are happy with “plain vanilla.” Wearing a silly hat or a shirt from a favorite sports team can be as much fun as a fancy ball!

Sports Day – Enjoy the warm weather with a “Sports Day.” Children can wear t-shirts and hats from their favorite teams. Let them bring sports equipment to share with friends on the playground.
Book Party – Encourage children to dress up like their favorite book character. Play “Guess Who I Am?” or have children describe why they like a particular character. Let them bring favorite reading material (books, magazines) from home and sit or lay wherever they want for independent reading.

Talent Show - One of my favorite memories is of a Talent Show we had at the end of the school year. I just invited all the children to think of a “talent” (song, dance, story, gymnastic stunt) they could do. We sat in a circle and they all got up and performed! We clapped and laughed and cheered!

Board Game Day – Let children bring board games from home. Set aside the last hour in the day to share games and play with friends. 

Pajama Party – Have children wear pajamas and bring pillows and stuffed animals to class. Read books, watch a movie, and eat popcorn.

Career Day – Children come dressed for the career they’d like when they grow up. After sharing with friends, have each child draw a picture (or take a photograph) and make a class book.

Unbirthday Party
– How about a birthday party when it’s everyone’s “unbirthday”? Play party games, sing, and decorate cupcakes. (This is also a great way to celebrate all those summer birthdays.)

Beach Party
– Bring beach towels and wear sunglasses, shorts, and bathing suits. Set up sprinklers or other water activities on the playground. Play beach ball games, beach music, and have a “cool” snack like popsicles.
Teddy Bear Parade – Children bring in a teddy bear or stuffed animal and parade around the classroom. Have them write stories and draw pictures of what they like to do with their bear. Have a “tea party” with your bears.
Hat Day – Ask children to wear their favorite hat to school, or challenge them to design a hat from a paper plate and art scraps.

Luau – Make grass skirts from draw string garbage bags. Cut straws in 1” pieces and alternate stringing with paper flowers on dental floss to create a lei. Hula, surf, and eat pineapple fruit kabobs for snack.

Toy Day – Children bring a favorite toy from home and share with their friends.

Wash Day
– Wear old clothes and bring sponges, pails, and squirt bottles. Let children wash tables, desks, toys, etc. (You could tie this in with a water play day.)

Sock Hop – Children get to wear silly socks to school and have a dance at the end of the day.
*Teach the children the “Twist,” “Charleston,” “Jitterbug,” “Swim,” “Pony,” or other dances from your past.
Teacher of the Day – Assign one child each day the last month of school to be “Teacher of the Day.” That child gets to sit in your desk and be in charge of circle time. They can choose a book to read to the class, a song to sing, game to play, and so forth.

Monday, May 15, 2017


We all know how critical it is to engage parents in their child’s education. All parents want the best for their children, but many of them don’t have the resources or know what to do – other than to hand the child their phone!!! So here are some great old-fashion, hands-on, ideas to encourage parents to spend time with their children this summer.

Family Fun Calendar
Here’s a summer calendar that you can run off for your students. Glue it to a heavy piece of cardboard and attach a string so it can be hung up in their home. Read over the activities to motivate your students, and then let them decorate their calendars with markers or crayons.

Bucket of “Fun”
You can buy sand buckets or just use a plastic cup like I did. Punch holes and add a pipe cleaner handle. Let children decorate their “buckets of fun” with markers, stickers, etc.
Make a list of activities that children can do with their families over the summer to reinforce skills you’ve worked on during the school year. Cut into strips and place in the buckets. Send the bucket home with a note encouraging the parents to let their child select a strip each day and do the activity.

Some examples might include:
     Read a story with your parents. Tell what happened at the beginning, middle, and end of the story. What do you think will happen next?
     Play a rhyming game. How many words can you think of that rhyme with "can"? "Pot"?
"Book"? "Coat"? "Sheep"? "Like"?
     Trace around your hand and your foot. What can you make out of them?
     Count as high as you can. Can you count by 2's, 5's, and 1O's?
     Ask your parents to teach you a song they learned when they were your age.
     Look in your kitchen pantry. How many labels can you read?
     How many ways can you move? Can you hop, skip, jump, gallop, tiptoe, walk
     Can you draw a circle, oval, square, rectangle, and triangle? What other shapes can
you draw?
     Write a special letter to someone in your house.
     Look at some of your baby pictures. How have you changed?
     Find something that begins with these letters: B, H, S, M, L,
     Draw a picture of your neighborhood.
     Make a list of 5 things that are non-living. Make a list of 5 things that are living.
     Do you have a library card? Visit your library and check out some books.
     Do a job around the house.
     Write your name on a piece of paper - first, middle, and last. What are your initials?

Here’s a link where you can download more:

End of Year Letter
Give parents with a positive lasting impression by sending a letter similar to the one below. It might be thoughtful to send a picture of their child along with the note.

Dear ______,

Lucky me to get to spend this special year with your child!  (Child’s name) has worked hard and has grown in many ways. One of my favorite memories is (something unique about the child).

I appreciate all the support and encouragement you have given (child’s name) at home. Behind every great student is a great family!

Saying good-bye is bittersweet. “Bitter” because I will miss (child’s name), but sweet because I am so proud to have been a part of his/her life! Please keep in touch because I know the future holds many wonderful things for your child and your family!

Remember to read and laugh every day this summer!


Sunday, May 14, 2017


On this Mother’s Day, it doesn’t matter if you are a male or female or a biological parent or not. If you are an early childhood educator, you are a caregiver and in many situations as vital as the actual parent. We enter our profession not because of the money or dreams of high test scores. We become teachers of young children out of LOVE. You can take all your technology programs and assessments and performance standards – but, at the end of the day, it’s all about the relationship you create with each child.

Many years ago there was an older woman in one of my workshops. She had been working with children for over 50 years and I asked her if she had any advice for me. She gingerly got down on her knees, opened her arms, and said with a smile, “Come to me.” That was the inspiration for the thought I share with each of you on this special day.

by Dr. Jean

Whether you are large or small, rich or poor –
Come to me.

Whether your skin is brown or beige, gold or tan –
Come to me.

I’ll embrace you and love you and cherish you –
Come to me.

I’ll play with you and make you laugh –
Come to me.

I’ll kiss your hurts and keep you safe –
Come to me.

I’ll give you happy memories and dreams for tomorrow -
Come to me.

I’ll share the wonder of learning and the joy of each day –
Come to me.

I’ll take time to listen to you and try to understand you –
Come to me.

I’ll cheer you, encourage you, and believe in you –
Come to me.

I’ll never give up. I’ll try and try. I’m an early childhood teacher.
Come to me!

This is dedicated to my mother Frances McCracken Rosenberg.  She never went to college, but she was the BEST early childhood educator I've ever know.  Thanks, Mom!!  I hope you feel how much I love you and appreciate you and miss you!

Saturday, May 13, 2017


Here's a link to my Facebook Live I did Thursday with lots of 
"sweet" ideas to end your year:

You've worked so hard to get your children to where they are, but how do you keep them reading and writing over the summer?

Summer Journal
Carolyn Kisloski created this free download last year and it’s a wonderful way to encourage children to write over the summer.
*I gave it to my granddaughter and she thought it was pretty cool to have “homework” to do.

Library Card
What better gift can you give your students at the end of the year than a library card? Take a field trip to your local library or ask the children’s librarian to visit your school and describe all their summer reading activities.

Summer Reading List
It’s easy to do an internet search and find a suggested reading list for your grade level. Parents would probably appreciate this when helping their child choose books to read over the summer.

                                 *I found this summer reading challenge and book list at

Cut cardstock the size of a postcard. Let children decorate one side with markers or crayons. On the reverse side draw a line down the middle. Have the children write the teacher’s name on one half. Explain that if they send you the postcard over the summer and write you a note that you will write back to them.
*You could also give the children a pre-stamped envelope addressed to you. Explain that when they write you, you will write them back.

Friday, May 12, 2017


Here's a link to the Facebook Live at Five I did last night:

"Selective nostalgia" is the ability to remember the good things and forget about the negative things.  Most children are more adept at this than grownups - thank goodness!

The Best Thing About… 

Invite children to recall some of their favorite memories from the school year. Give them a sheet of paper to illustrate it. Ask them to write (or dictate) a sentence about it. Put their pictures together in a cover that says, “The Best Thing About (Grade)” and bind. Save the book to read to your new class when school starts.
Welcome Brochure
Demonstrate how to fold a sheet of paper into thirds to make a brochure. Let each child create a brochure called “Welcome to Grade.” They could include things they’ll learn, special events, etc. Save these and give them (or send in the mail) to your upcoming students when school starts.
Hint! Have children do a “rough draft.” Edit and then make a revised copy.

Back to School Bulletin Board
Invite your students to create a bulletin board to welcome the new class. Cover with newspaper to protect over the summer, and you’ll be ahead of the game when school starts. How about one of these themes?

     Lights, Camera, Action! (Photos of Special Events)

     A Great Batch (Gingerbread Cookies)

     (Teacher’s Name) Bunch (Bananas)

     Round Up for a Great Year (Horses)

     Lookin’ Good! (Giant Mirror)

     Kick off for (Grade)! (Football & Goal)

     Join (Teacher’s Name) Team! (Pennants and Pompoms)

     Welcome Super Stars (Stars)

     Swim into a New Year (Fish)

     Bloom in (Grade - Flower Garden)

Note!  I'm smiling to myself because we used many of these same themes years ago.  Some things just don't change!