Friday, July 20, 2018


If you have enjoyed my tips and tricks for engaging children 
on my blog you can also watch my FB video.

A “voice box” can be used to capitalize on children’s natural interest in dramatizing. They can all be actors and actresses as they practice reading, counting, sight words, math facts, and other skills with these creative voices. Write the different styles below on index cards and place in a small box labeled “Voice Box.” Invite different children to choose a card and then practice skills in that “voice.”

Three Bears
Speak papa bear style (with a deep voice), mama bear style (with a prissy voice), and baby bear style (with a wee voice).

Put your index finger between your lips and vibrate as you talk.

With a Cold
Children hold their nose and read like their nose is stuffed.

Lip Sinc
Mouth the words.

Read text with different emotions, such as happy, sad, angry, sleepy, etc. Which one fits the text best?
Talk out of the side of your mouth. Grrr, matie!


Pretend to type with your fingers as you move eyes from left to right. Ding, and then “return the carriage” when you get to the end of the line.

Talk like a news reporter “on the street.”

Rock and Roll
Pretend to hold guitar and dance and sing.
Extend arms and sing words dramatically.

Let children come up with their own creative voices.

You can also 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 19, 2018


Grab children’s attention and wake up their brains by changing their “state of mind”! You can use these strategies for choral reading, counting, reading word wall words, reading independently, doing flash cards, saying poems, etc.

Sit Like a Boss
Children cross arms, lean back, and put feet up on their desk.

Cowboy and Cowgirl
Children turn chair around and straddle it as if riding a horse.

Turn chairs around and face the back of the room.

Lounge Chair
Turn chairs upside down and use a backpack like a pillow to lean back on.
Change Seats
Children exchange seats with a classmate.

Tummy Time
Lay on the floor and read, write, and work.

Silly Me!
Teacher puts on a hat, silly nose, glasses, etc.
Turn on twinkle lights or a special lamp.

Aroma Therapy
Put a little peppermint oil or other fragrance on a cotton ball to wake up the brain!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018




Children might know a puppet isn’t real when you put it on your hand, but they’ll want to pretend and play along.

Cut the top and bottom off a food box, insert the puppet on your hand, and then let the puppet pop out the box and sing a song, talk about an event, or say a rhyme.

Ralph the Rag
Knot the top of a dishtowel to look like ears. Introduce it to the class as “Ralph the Rag.” Challenge them to do what Ralph does. Bend the towel and wait for the children to do it. Wiggle the head…shake all over…stand up…turn around…Everyone will want to do what Ralph does!

Henry Hush
Use a finger puppet or draw a little face with a Sharpie on your index finger. Hold it up as you sing this song to the tune of “London Bridge.”
Henry Hush says please be quiet,
Please be quiet, please be quiet.
Henry Hush says please be quiet.
Shh! Shh! Shh! (Place index finger on lips and lower your voice.)

Juke Box
There will be transition times in every school day, and if you don’t direct children’s attention in a positive way they will become restless and troublesome. With this juke box you will always have a song or rhyme handy to entertain them. Decorate a gift bag or small box with the words “Juke Box.” To make CDs cut 4” circles out of fun foam or heavy cardboard. Write words to songs, finger plays, rhymes, and chants on the CDs and place them in the “juke box.” Give a child a pretend quarter and tell them to put it in the juke box and pull out a song or rhyme.
Hint! Invite that child to lead the class in the song or poem.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Wakey!  Wakey!
It's going to be a great day!
I can't wait to see you this afternoon 
when I do Facebook Live at Five!
I'll be demonstrating the "Rules of 
Engagement" so tune in then.

Distracting fidgety hands and bodies may enable children to focus and calm down.

Brain Toys
Fill a shoebox or basket with stress balls or knotted socks. Suggest children get a "brain toy” when they can’t keep their hands to themselves.

Stress Button
Glue the hook side of Velcro to a poker chip to make a “stress button.”

Wrap a 20” piece of string around a jumbo craft sticks. Children keep these in their desk and get them out when their hands need to fiddle.

Sitter Spot
Cut 8” circles out of fun foam or felt and write the children’s names on them. Arrange for circle time to encourage social interactions and disperse problems.
*Children can also use these for their “special spot” for doing quiet activities.

Flashlight Spotlight
Take a flashlight and shine it on a child who is modeling the behavior you are looking for. “Spotlight on (child’s name). He’s got his math book and he’s ready to learn.”  

Happy Chappy
You will need some lip balm with a fragrance. Gently rub children’s right hand with a “happy chappy” when they are following directions.
Lucky Sticks!
Cover a can or plastic cup with paper and write “Lucky Sticks” on it. Take jumbo craft sticks and color one end green (1/2”) and the other end red (1/2”). Next, let each child write her name in the middle of the craft stick. Place the sticks with the red end down in the can. Explain that when you have an errand or task, you will pick a stick from the can. That child will get to be your special helper. After they’ve been picked, put their stick in the can with the red end on top. When all the sticks have been picked, turn them over and start again.

Monday, July 16, 2018


Children don’t think abstractly. They live in a concrete world and that’s why simple props work like magic to capture their attention.

Music Box
Play a music box to indicate to the children it’s time to get quiet.

*One teacher said she wound up the music box at the end of the day and challenged the children to get quiet quickly so there would still be music at the end of the day.

Whistles and Chimes
Use a whistle, chimes, or other sound effect to get children’s attention.


Blow bubbles and see if the children can be sitting quietly before all the bubbles pop.

Blink the lights, play a xylophone, or make some other unique noise or motion.

Quiet Lotion
Make a label for a bottle of disinfectant that says “Quiet Lotion” or "Calm Down Lotion." As you pass it around the class ask children to take a little and rub it in their hands. Explain that it’s a reminder to pay attention and to be a good listeners.

Quiet Creatures (Jennifer Olayo)
You’ll need a large pompom, small pompom, googly eyes, and a foam heart or flower to make a quiet creature. Glue the small pompom to the large one for a nose. Add eyes and stick the heart on the bottom for feet. Children take out their quiet creatures during quiet activities. If they talk they lose their creature. When they finish they can whisper quietly to their creature.


Brain Sprinkles
Put a few spoonfuls of rice in a Pringle’s can and glue on the lid. Cover the can with sparkly paper. When it’s something important for the children to learn explain that you will put brain sprinkles on them. (Shake the can over their heads!)



Make a magic wand by dipping the end of a chopstick in glue and then rolling it in glitter. 
Dry. Wave the wand in the air as you say: 

Abracadabra! When you feel the magic you will be quiet and listen to me!

*If a child is not listening, wave it over their head as you say, “You must not feel the magic. Child’s name, do you feel it now?” Look at the child as you say this and you might even surprise yourself how well it works!

Sunday, July 15, 2018


All you have to do is hide something in a bag or box and you’ll ignite children’s curiosity and interest. Place a book, natural object, shape, or anything you want to talk about in a gift bag and sing this song:

Surprise Sack 
(Tune: “I’m a Little Teapot”)
What’s in the surprise sack who can tell?
Maybe it’s a book or maybe it’s a shell?
What’s in the surprise sack who can see?
It’s something special for you and me!
Give them a few clues and invite children to guess what is in the bag. Slowly pull it out and you’ll have their undivided attention.

Hint! If you go to a conference or take a trip put a small souvenir in a gift bag (book, shell, pencil, toy, etc.) and cover with tissue paper. Children pass the bag around and use a complete sentence to guess what is in the bag. When all have had a turn remove the object and give it to the children like a “present.”

Mystery? Mystery?
Write a sight word, vocabulary word, letter, number, shape, or picture of something you are going to discuss on the board. Cover it with a piece of paper and tape it at the top. As children enter the classroom they take a “peek.” At morning meeting encourage children to discuss what they know or ask questions that they have about the “mystery item.”

Twenty Questions
To increase children’s interest in a new topic play 20 Questions. Give them 20 opportunities to ask questions and try and narrow down what the topic might be. (Tally questions on the board.) This will create interest and it will also help children learn to ask good questions.

Saturday, July 14, 2018


Children and lines are not a “perfect fit,” but these songs and movements will engage them in a positive direction.

Line Up Song 
(Tune: “Gilligan’s Island Theme Song”)
I’m looking straight ahead of me
My arms are at my sides.
My feet are quiet as can be
I’m ready for outside.

Line Up Song
(Tune: “Hi Ho, Hi Ho”)
Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to (lunch, play, home, etc.) we go.
With our heads held high and arms by our sides
And our belly buttons all in a row.

Hips and Lips
Children place one hand on their hip and one finger on their lips.
*Butterfly wings – Children put hands behind their back and flap elbows.
*Bubbles and duck tails – Puff cheeks and make a tail with hands.
*Bears and cave – One hand is the bear and insert it in the other hand behind your back.

Teacher says: Standing straight?
Children respond: Check!
Teacher says: Hands to self?
Children respond: Check!
Teacher says: Mouth closed?
Children respond: Check!
Teacher says: Ready for the hall?
Children respond: Check!
Locket Pocket
To line up the teacher says: Locket. (Pretend to lock lips.)
Children respond: Pocket. (Pretend to put the key in their pocket.) 

Friday, July 13, 2018


For some reason children seem to be more eager to follow directions when you sing what you want them to do.

Give Me a Clap
(Tune: “Addams Family”)
Give me a clap. (Clap twice.) Give me a clap. (Clap twice.)
Give me a clap, give me a clap,
Give me a clap. (Clap twice.)
Give me a snap. (Snap twice.) Give me a snap. (Snap twice.)
Now fold your hands and put them down
Into your lap. (Model putting your hands in your lap.)

Na Na Na Na 

(Tune: “Land of a Thousand Dances”)
Na na na na, na na na na, (Wave hands in the air.)
Hey, hey, good job. (Hands on hips and then clap.)
Na na na na, na na na na,
Hey, hey, sit down. (Or whatever you want them to do.)


Name on Your Paper
(Tune: "Shine and a hair cut - two bits")
Name on your paper ~ first thing!
Name on your paper ~ first thing!
Where does it go?
At the top.
Where does it go?
At the top.
Name on your paper~ first thing!
Name on your paper~ first thing!
*Add a verse that says, "Date on your paper - second thing!"

Make a Circle 
(Tune: “Lassie and Laddie”)
We can make a circle, a circle, a circle.
We can make a circle and hold hands right now.
Hold hands with a friend, a circle never ends.
We can make a circle and hold hands right now.

If You Don’t Know What to Do 
(Tune: “If You’re Happy and You Know It”)
If you don’t know what to do look at (child doing the correct thing).
If you don’t know what to do look at ---
She will show you what to do
So you can do it, too.
If you don’t know what to do look at ---.

Thursday, July 12, 2018


Begin a simple game and you’ll be amazed at how children will want to join and play along.  Just think about how good these are for self regulation!

Teacher Says
Begin a game similar to Simon Says:
(Teacher's name) says clap three times.
(Teacher's name)  says put your hands in the air.(Teacher's name)  says touch your ears.(Teacher's name)  blink your eyes, etc.
As children join in the game lower your voice as you say:
(Teacher's name) says put your hands in your lap and...
listen to me…line up at the door…get out your math books, etc.

The Quiet Game
One child is selected to be “it.” “It” stands in front of the room and says, “Mousie, mousie, how quiet can you be? When I clap my hands 1, 2, 3 (slowly clap 3 times), we shall see!” “It” chooses the classmate who is being the quietest and then that child comes to the front of the room and is the new “it.” (My class LOVED this game. It was a great way to develop self-regulation while waiting in the hall or during other transitions.)
Tighten up your body as tight as you can and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Then relax and let it all go. Repeat several times.

*Starting with the toes, call out one body part at a time for children to squeeze and then relax. For example, toes, feet, knees, legs, hips, back, fingers, arms, shoulders, necks, faces, and then a whole body SQUEEZE!

Rag Dolls and Soldiers 
When the teacher calls out “rag dolls” everyone flops over like a rag doll. When the teacher says, “soldiers,” everyone stands up tall and stiff. Continue calling out “rag dolls” and “soldiers” faster and faster.

Toy Toss

Use a small stuffed animal for this game. Say, “I’m looking for a quiet friend.” Throw the toy to a child who is sitting quietly. That child looks for a quiet friend and tosses the toy. Children continue passing the toy to friends.

If You Can Hear My Voice
In a normal voice say:
If you can hear my voice, clap your hands one time.
In a softer voice say:
If you can hear my voice, clap your hands two times.
In a whisper voice say:
If you can hear my voice, please look at me.
Continue lowering your voice until children are focused on you.

*Attach a picture of an ear to a craft stick.  When you want the children to listen hold up the ear.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


By focusing on their breath children will become “centered” and “mindful.”

Breath through Your Nose
Tell children to gently put their lips together. Can they breath in and out their nose as they give their mouths a rest?
Give Your Mouth a Vacation
Challenge children to “give their mouths a vacation” and practice breathing through their noses.

Smile Break
When children are wound up, help calm them with a smile break. Tell them to look at the clock and smile for 30 seconds. (Use the timer on your phone or have them look at the clock until the big hand is on the 6.) 

Deep Breathing
Inhale slowly as you count to 8. Exhale slowly as you count backwards from 8 to 1.

*Breath in hot chocolate (count of 8).
Breath out and blow the candles out on a birthday cake (count of 8).

Magic Bubble
Demonstrate how to make a magic bubble (circle with both hands by touching fingertips). Tell the children to hold up their bubbles and blow out and in…slowly out and in.

Cloud Ride
Ask children to close their eyes and get on a cloud. Breath slowly in and out as the cloud takes them on an imaginary ride.

*This is pleasant to do as children lay on their backs. Play some quiet music to help them relax.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


These are quick ways to engage children’s eyes, hands, and brains when you have a few extra minutes.

Make Rain
Hold up palm as you say, “Let’s make rain. Do what I do.”
Tap pointer finger on palm for several seconds.
Tap pointer finger and middle finger.
Tap pointer, middle, and ring finger.
Tap pointer, middle, ring, and pinky on palm.
Clap hands together loudly, then reverse movements.
Tap pointer, middle, ring, and pinky on palm.
Tap pointer, middle, and ring finger.
Tap pointer and middle finger.
Tap pointer finger on palm.
Slowly bring palms together and put in your lap.

Twiddle Your Thumbs
Can you twiddle your thumbs?
Can you unwind them?
Can you twiddle your thumbs with the other thumb on top?

See Saw
Palms together. Push your right hand against the left and then push the left hand against the right.

Do the same thing with your thumbs, index fingers, middle finger, ring, and pinky fingers.

Cross fingers to make a beehive. Wiggle each bee/finger starting with thumbs as you count from one to ten. Reverse as you count backwards. Cross fingers with the opposite thumb in front and then wiggle each finger.

Open hands and touch fingertips. Bend in and out. Tap thumbs. Then tap index fingers, middle fingers, ring, and pinky fingers. Reverse. Roll each leg/finger forward and then backwards.

Here's a video where you can see some of these demonstrated:

Wally Acha
Wally acha, wally wacha, (Slap thighs and then cross palms.)
Doodley do, doodley do. (Touch nose and ear with opposite hands.)
Wally acha, wally acha, (Slap thighs and then cross palms.)
Doodley do, doodley do. (Touch nose and ear with opposite hands.)
It’s a simple little song
there’s not much to it, (Slap thighs and then cross palms.)
All you’ve got to do is doodley do it. (Touch nose and ear.)
Wally acha, wally acha, (Slap thighs and then cross palms.)
Doodley, doodley do. Poo poo! (Touch nose and ear.)

“Eye” Exercise

 Demonstrate how to hold your two index fingers a few inches from your eyes on either side of your head. Look at the right index finger with both eyes and then look at the left index finger.

Monday, July 9, 2018


Use one of these cross-lateral activities to connect both sides of the brain and to help children center themselves.

Brain Hug
(Children repeat each line and mimic the motions.)
Thumbs up. (Extend arms and stick up thumbs.)
Thumbs down. (Thumbs down.)
Cross your arms. (Cross right fist over left.)
Clasp your fingers. (Clasp fingers.)
Give yourself a brain hug. (Bring clasped fingers down and up as you hug your chest.)

You’re the Best!

(Children repeat after the teacher. You could change the words to “I’m the best!” or “We’re the best!”)
Thumbs up. (Stick out right thumb.)
Across the chest. (Bring across to the left shoulder.)
Pat on the back. (Pat self on the back.)
Cause you’re the best! (Wrap arms around self and hug.)

What Are You?
(Adapted from “The Help.”)
Teacher asks: What are you?
Children respond: I am kind. (Touch the heart.)
I am smart. (Touch the head.)
I am important. (Give self a hug.)

My Teacher Feel about Me?
Teacher says: How does my teacher feel about me?”
Children respond: I’m as special as special can be (Sparkle fingers.)
because my teacher believes in me! (Hug self.)