Saturday, November 18, 2017


Are you working on lesson plans today? Here are some books to encourage the "authors" in your classroom this week.  These are a good example of what I call a "rabbit trap."  Children will want to write in them, read them, and then take them home and share them with their families.

Napkin Book
Purchase seasonal napkins at the dollar store. Cut paper (4-36 sheets) the size of the napkin and staple it inside. Children can draw pictures and write about what they are thankful for.
Paper Plate Book
You'll need paper plates, blank paper, and pipe cleaners (cut in half) to make this book. Cut 8" circles out of the blank paper. Put 4 sheets of the blank paper between the two paper plates, punch a hole at the top, and bind with a pipe cleaner. Children can draw favorite foods or write what they are thankful for in this book.

*Younger children could cut out foods they like from magazines or grocery store flyers.
Thanksgiving Journal
Children can make this book and then use it over the holidays to record what they do. For each book you will need 2 sheets of white paper, a sheet of construction paper, a plastic fork, and a rubber band. Place the white paper on top of the construction paper and fold in half. Punch two holes 3" from the top on bottom on the creased side as shown. Insert the rubber band in one whole and loop the end of the fork through it. Insert the other end of the rubber band through the other hole and secure the fork.

Hint!  Large plastic forks and skinny rubber bands work best.



We Give Thanks
(Tune: “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore” – HAPPY EVERYTHING CD)
We give thanks for food we eat.
We give thanks for food we eat
We give thanks for families…
We give thanks for friends so dear…
We give thanks for all the earth…

*Let children suggest other things they are thankful for and insert the words in the song.

Here is a link to run off the above book.

Friday, November 17, 2017


Last month when I visited Giles County they gave me SMILES OF GILES - A COUNTY ALPHABET BOOK.

This precious book was created by Giles Early Education Project and illustrated by the children from Giles County, VA.



For each letter there is artwork by the children, as well as a photograph. What an amazing way to nurture a sense of community pride in children, teach letters, and make them more knowledgeable about the place they live!

Wouldn't this be a great project for any town, city, county, or state? I bet you could get a grant for publishing this book, or perhaps the chamber of commerce or visitor's center in your area would be interested.


I thought the last page was the best. "May the music of Giles play all your life long."

Thursday, November 16, 2017



Make an alphabet book with me!
Take a look and you will see.
Alphabet books from A to Z!

Here are some alphabet books you might want to create with your class. They are a perfect vehicle for alphabet knowledge, reading for information, reading foundations, and many other language skills. And, you know when your children make a book there is a sense of “ownership” and they will want to read it.

I Can Read!
Take 26 large sheets of paper (12” x 16”) and write a different letter on each page. Put pages between construction paper to make a book called “I Can Read My ABC’s.” Hole punch and bind with book rings. Invite children to bring in words from food labels, stores, catalogs, etc. that they can read. As children bring in their words, help them match up the first letter with the same letter in the book and glue their word on that page. 


See - Sign - SING! 
Enlarge copies of the sign language alphabet. Put a different letter and sign on each page; then let different children illustrate a picture that begins with that sound. Bind together to make a book. Encourage the children to reproduce the signs on each page as they read the book.
*Take digital photos of children making the different signs.
*Cut hands out of felt and glue them to make manual signs.
*You can also make a Braille alphabet book by using drops of glue to represent the different Braille letters.

Alphabet Art
Write large letters of the alphabet on paper. Give each child a letter and challenge them to create a picture around their letter. “What does your letter look like? Does it remind you of something? Can you use your crayons to turn it into that object? Try to ‘camouflage’ it so no one knows what your letter is.” Put their drawings together to make a book. Can they find the letter hidden in each picture?
*Give each child the letter that their name begins with to make this book.
*Challenge older children to turn their letter into an object that begins with the sound their letter makes.

Touch and Tell ABC Book
Make letters out of different textures, such as sandpaper, felt, yarn, canvas, fake fur, etc.

AlphaBODY Book
Challenge children to make letters with their bodies.  Or, divide children into small groups and ask them to make letters.

Themes and Holidays
Make alphabet books that coordinate with various themes, holidays, and
seasons. For example, if you are studying the ocean make a “Ocean ABC
Book.”  Wouldn't a "Thankful Alphabet Book" be a perfect project next week?

Oh, but what until you see the special alphabet book I'll have on my blog tomorrow!!!!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Isn’t it nice to be missed? If a child has been absent, they will feel special when they return to school and you sing this song to the tune of “The Bear Went over the Mountain.”

     Welcome back child’s name.
     Welcome back child’s name.
     Welcome back child’s name.
     We’re glad you’re here today.

Good-Bye Book
I mentioned this book several years ago when K.J. and Kalina left on a long trip and wouldn’t be returning to school. Kalina’s teacher asked each child to draw a picture for her and then they made it into a book. She treasured that book!  K.J.’s teacher did nothing. It's one of those little things that could mean so much to a child.  

Moving away or going to a new school is painful for children. We’ve all felt that sense of loss when we have moved or said good-bye to friends. This book would give children a meaningful way to let their friend know they will be missed. And it would be something the parting child could hold onto and visit when they leave.

*Hint! A class photo would make a great cover.

Welcome to a New Friend
I just remembered this idea that we did when a new child joined our class.  We'd sit in a circle and I'd put a block in the middle.  We'd go around the circle and one child at a time would stand and jump over the block as we sang this song to "Jack Be Nimble."
     (Child's name) be nimble.
     (Child's name) be quick.
     (Child's name) jump over the candlestick.

It was just a silly routine, but the kids enjoyed welcoming a new classmate with it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


I titled this blog “The Spot” because a teacher told me she called her art center “The Spot.” I thought that was rather clever and perfect for these simple, open-ended projects.  These creative activities are another way for children to SHOW WHAT YOU KNOW and can be tied into many different skills and standards.

*Remember, it’s the process and not the product. Children will be using problem-solving and small motor skills as they do these projects.

Pop Up Scene
Skills: comprehension, setting
Materials: construction paper, crayons, markers, scissors, glue, scrap box
Directions: Prepare pop-ups ahead of time by folding the construction paper in half. Cut two slits from the fold 3 ½” from each side and 2 ½” down as shown. Bend the tab in so when you open there will be a 3-dimensional tab. Have children close their eyes and make a picture from a book you have read in their brain. Have them draw the setting of the scene on the inside of the pop-up. Finally, have them draw the main character and glue it to the pop-up.
*Pop ups are perfect for habitat studies or scenes from history.

Skills:  comprehension, setting, habitats
Materials:  paper, scissors, crayons, markers, stapler
Directions:  Cut the paper into a square by making a diagonal fold and cutting off the bottom.  Children draw a scene on the top half of the square as shown.  Cut in half-way on the diagonal crease, fold under, and staple to make a stand up scene.  


Pipe Cleaner People
Skills: book characters, famous people, retelling a story
Materials: pipe cleaners, scrap box, cloth, scissors, glue
Directions: Demonstrate how to make a stick person from two pipe cleaners. Children can then add a face, clothing, and other details. Let them retell a story with their pipe cleaner people.

Skills:  vocabulary words, spelling words, math facts, 4 facts learned, etc.
Materials:  paper, scissors, hole punch, colored pencils, play dough

Directions:  To make a square, fold a sheet of paper diagonally and cut off the end. Fold in half diagonally again. Cut in on diagonal lines stopping 1” from the center. Hole punch every other corner and in the middle. Insert holes on a pencil or straw and put a little play dough on the end.  

Monday, November 13, 2017


Elementary age children are in the “age of industriousness.” Erik Erikson is a psychologist that I studied in college who made a lot of sense to me. He identified a series of eight stages that individuals go through from infancy through late adulthood.

Erikson viewed the elementary school years as critical for the development of self-confidence. Ideally, elementary school provides many opportunities to achieve the recognition of teachers, parents and peers by producing things—drawing pictures, solving addition problems, writing sentences, and so on. If children are encouraged to make and do things and are then praised for their accomplishments, they begin to demonstrate industry by being diligent, persevering at tasks until completed, and putting work before pleasure. (

It’s interesting to me (after being at this rodeo for many years) that I see similar concepts in the “executive function.” Children need the opportunity to start and complete a task and they need to develop delayed gratification. Concrete challenges where they can express themselves and develop mastery will encourage this.

Add to the above STEM where children use T (technology – aka tools) and E (engineering – plan and execute a design).

All of the above help justify the need for art and creative activities in the elementary classroom. Let’s look beyond a computer assessment and paper and pencil test to let children SHOW WHAT YOU KNOW!

Puppets (stick, paper bag, paper plate, sock, coat hanger, envelope)
Provide children with the materials to make puppets of their favorite character from a story. They could also make a puppet of animals studied, famous historical figures, and so forth. The puppet will give them a fun way to share information with classmates.

Sculpture (mold with clay or play dough)
Children can make something that they learned from reading a book, watching a video, etc.
Create a Board Game

Challenge children to make a game to review information from a unit of study. They could do this independently or with a partner.

Poster, Collage, or Mural
Divide children into small groups and let them create a visual about what they’ve learned.

Mini Museum
Children take a shoebox and make a small “museum” with a collection of objects (found or made) that represent what they’ve learned.

Class Chef
Foodies are growing in number with school age children. They’ll have fun preparing and serving foods from different regions, cultures, food groups, etc.


Sunday, November 12, 2017


November 16 is Button Day…for real! Here are some thoughts on how to integrate buttons into your lesson plans any day. And, don't forget to read Eric Lintwin's PETE THE CAT AND HIS FOUR GROOVY BUTTONS!
Hint! I bought my bag of buttons at Walmart, but you could ask parents to send in extra buttons they don’t want for a learning activity. (That might be a good homework assignment.)

*Have children count the number of buttons they have on. Who has the most? Who has zero? Tally how many in the entire class.

*Have children form groups with friends who have the same number of buttons.

*Use the buttons children bring in for math activities. Let them sort the buttons. What was their sorting rule? Can they sort them another way?

*Write numerals on cups and have children make appropriate sets in the cups using the buttons.


*Make patterns with buttons and use buttons for addition and subtraction.


*Let children choose one button and glue it in the middle of a sheet of construction paper. Can they create a picture incorporating the button?

*Give children pipe cleaners or dental floss and let the string buttons to make necklaces and bracelets. (You’ll probably have to limit the number of buttons each child can use.)    


*Make cardboard picture frames and let children glue on buttons. Insert their photo for a perfect gift for mom or dad.


*Play “Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?” This is really a silly game, but my kids loved it. Choose one child to be “it” and hide a button. Choose 3 or 4 other children to leave the classroom and stand in the hall. The rest of the students cup their hands together as if they are holding something. “It” walks around the room and places the button in one friend’s cupped hands. The children in the hall are then called back to the classroom and everyone chants, “Button, button, who’s got the button?” The students from the hall walk around opening hands until someone finds the button. They become the new “it” and the game continues.

*Let children make up their own game using buttons.

*Demonstrate how to sew on a button. Now, that’s a novel idea! I bet some of your kids have never seen someone use a needle and thread.

Saturday, November 11, 2017


Manners can take you a long way in this world - although they are not included in most state standards! Manners are part of the “hidden curriculum” that we can nurture daily in little ways. This is a perfect time of year to talk about thanking others and what it means to be polite. Here’s a simple echo song to encourage children to use their “magic words.”

I Have Manners (Tune: “Are You Sleeping?” - Children repeat each line.)
I have manners,
I have manners,
Every day,
Every day.
If I want something
If I want something
“Please,” I’ll say.
“Please,” I’ll say.

I have manners,
I have manners,
Every day,
Every day.
When someone is nice
When someone is nice
“Thanks,” I’ll say.
“Thanks,” I’ll say.

*Role play when to say, “please,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” and “excuse me.”

*Teach children these signs and use them as prompts:
     Please - palm open on chest and circle around
     Thank you - fingers on chin and then down to palm

*Let the children use puppets to model what to do in similar situations:
     How do you greet a new student?
     How do you call a friend and invite them for a play date?
     What do you do when someone pays you a compliment?
     What do you do when someone gives you a gift?
     What do you do when someone has a book that you want?

Table Manners
There are several good books about manners, but I liked to use a stuffed animal to demonstrate negative behavior. I’d ask the children to help me show the toy the correct thing to do.
     “Coco always chews with his mouth open. Who can show Coco the correct way to chew your food?”
     "Coco just grabs food that he wants. What is the polite thing to do when you want someone to pass you food?”
     “Coco eats his food and then runs out to play. What should Coco say before he leaves the table?”

Friday, November 10, 2017


I'll get right to the point with some pointers today.

Children love anything novel and different. They can use these pointers to track from left to right, identify key details in a picture, point out letters or words in print, highlight capitalization and punctuation, touch shapes, identify parts of speech…I think you get the “point”!


Take a look at all these pointers I've collected.  I bet you'll find at least one new idea that will capture your students' interest. 

Magic wand – dip the end of a chopstick in glue and roll in glitter 

Finger nail – glue a fake fingernail to a craft stick 

I Spy – glue a googly eye to a craft stick 

Jewel – glue a fake jewel to a craft stick 

Witches’ finger – great fun 

Magnifying glass - pipe cleaner formed in a circle

Swizzle stick – buy these at a dollar store or have a drink at a bar (Just kidding!) 

Pretzel stick – point and then eat 

Seasonal – glue small seasonal toys or stickers to craft sticks or purchase seasonal pencils

Bugles - point, read, and eat!!!

Alien - Glue pipe cleaner antennas to the eye pointer and use for pointing and spacing between words.                                     

Giant Pointers
Glue a toy to the end of a cardboard pants hanger or decorate a butterfly net.
Smart Center
This was one of those simple, yet clever ideas that a teacher shared years ago.  She said she had a center called the "smart center" with an old pair of glasses and a hand pointer.  Children wore the glasses and walked around the room and pointed to words, shapes, colors, letters, etc. to show how "smart" they were.  The only rule was you had to use a whisper voice.  The teacher who shared this said the kids LOVED this center.  She said nobody paid any attention to them, but they thought they were smart just the same!

Thursday, November 9, 2017


How many old ladies do you know besides me? I know the “Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” She also swallowed a pie and a bat and a chick and numbers… She must be getting pretty full! The Old Lady is entertaining, but she also helps children with recall, sequence, phonological awareness, and oral language.

Here are a few visuals and craft activities that can be adapted to any version of the Old Lady. You can find free images online for the different stories or let children make their own illustrations.

Sandwich Bag Old Lady

Give children a circle to decorate for the head of the old lady. Staple the head to the back opening of a zip sandwich bag. Staple on strips of paper for arms and legs as shown. Run off copies of the different items for the book or song you are singing. Children line up items in sequential order and then insert them in the bag as you sing.

You could always use a real old lady's head!

Paper Plate Old Lady
Cut the center out of a paper plate. Use the center for the Old Lady’s head and attach with a brad fastener. Attach strips of paper with brad fasteners for arms and legs. Tape a sandwich bag to the back of the plate so you can insert illustrations as you sing.

Flannel Board File Folder
Staple the sides of a file folder together and glue a piece of felt to the front. Add Velcro to the back of pictures and place on the flannel board as you sing.

Last week when I was in Springfield, IL, Melanie Hamilton showed me the Old Lady apron her mother made.  Talk about a talented mother!!!  The Old Lady's mouth is a pocket so the children can insert different objects.  What fun!!!!


You'll definitely want to check out our November Happies for the "Old Lady Who Swallowed Numbers."