Thursday, October 18, 2018


Let's have some learning fun with seasonal words.  You can use these for October, autumn, Halloween, or any season or holiday throughout the year.

Mixed Up Words
Take vocabulary words, Halloween words, or spelling words and mix up the letters. Challenge children to figure out the words and then try to write them correctly on their paper.
Hint! Colored pencils or smelly markers make this so much more fun.

Word Makers 
Give children a seasonal word or vocabulary word. How many other words can they make using the letters in that word? (This might be a good activity for children to do with a partner or in a small group.)

Pumpkin Head 
This game is similar to “Wheel of Fortune.” The teacher thinks of a word and makes blanks on the board for the number of letters. As children call out 
letters, the teacher writes them on the appropriate blanks. If a child calls out a letter 
that is not in the word the teacher draws a pumpkin on the board. For each letter 
that is not in the word the teacher adds features (stem, eyes, nose, mouth, etc.) to the 
pumpkin. The children try to identify the word before the pumpkin head is completed. 

*Keep a “bone pile” in the corner where you write letters that are not in the word. 


Picture Words
Challenge children to write words in a way that reflects their meaning. For example, write “spooky” in shaky letters, “fall” in letters that go down, “colorful” with many colors, “candy” decorated with sprinkles, etc.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018



Here are some multi-sensory ways to put vocabulary, sight words, and spelling words in the brain.  Purposeful practice for automaticity (aka repetition) is essential to skill mastery, and these chants and dances will be more fun than drill and kill.  They're also the perfect brain break where children can learn as they move.

Clap and Snap – As you spell out words clap on the consonants and snap on the vowels.

Jumping Jacks – Do jumping jacks for each letter in a word.

Palm Pilot – Hold up one palm and trace the letters in a word with the index finger of the opposite hand. After making the letters say the word and “take it to the brain” by pretending to run your fingers up your arm to your brain.
Back Writing – Stand in a circle and spell out words on your neighbor’s back. Erase before writing a new word.

Cheer Words – Step back and forth as you clap and spell out words.
      Give me an “E.”
      I’ve got an “E” you’ve got an “E.”
      Give me ….
      What’s it spell? (Shout out word.)
Disco – Finger up in the air and move it across your body as you say different letters in a word. Hands on hips as you say the word.
Patty Cake – Children face a partner. They say the word as they clap. They cross and tap partner’s hands on each letter. Then high five and say the word in the air.

Air Writing – Children use their finger, foot, knee, tongue, elbow and other body parts to spell out words in the air.

March – Children march and swing arms on each letter. They salute and say the word at the end.

Body Writing
Tall letters (b, d, f, h, k, l, t) - touch your head
Tummy letters (a, c, e, i, m, n, o, r, s, u, v, w, x, z) – touch your tummy
Toe letters (g, j, p, q, y) – touch your feet
For example:
      H – touch head
      O – touch tummy
      P – touch feet
      Clap as you say the word “hop.”

Your Turn – Let children come up with their own creative ways to practice spelling words.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


October 16th is Dictionary Day because it's Noah Webster's birthday.  However, any day would be a great day to let your kids make their own "personal dictionaries."  OWNING their own dictionary would be a meaningful way to reinforce vocabulary, sight words, and spelling words.

Materials: pocket folder, prepared pages with alphabet letters, markers

*Here’s a link where you can download the pages with letters:

Directions: Ask students to tell you what they know about dictionaries. Brainstorm the many uses of dictionaries. Model looking up words and reading definitions. Explain that each of them will get to create their own dictionary that they can use to help them the rest of the school year. First, let the children decorate the outside of their pocket folder. Insert the alphabet pages. As you add new words to the word wall or have new spelling words, ask the children to write them in their dictionary. Encourage students to use their dictionaries when they write independently.

Hint! You might want to go ahead and type your core sight words on the pages before running them off.

Here are some other activities you can play with their dictionaries. 

*Play “mystery word” where you give clues about words. 
 Can you find a word that starts with /m/ and ends with /d/? 
 Can you find a word that is the opposite of “fast”? 

*Play the “rhyme” game. 
 Can you find a word that rhymes with “bike”? 
 Can you find a word that rhymes with “log” and is a pet? 

*How many one letter words can you find? How many two letter words? Three letter words? 

*Ask children to clap out the syllables in words. 

*Can they match up words in their dictionaries with words in the classroom? 

*Sort words that refer to people, things we do, describing words, etc. 

*Have children find a word that starts with each letter in their name. 

*Have children make up sentences (oral or written) with the words. 

*Ask children to illustrate words or find magazine pictures that match the words.

*Demonstrate how to use the dictionary on the internet.  How is it like their dictionary?  How is it different?

Add a separate page each month with seasonal and holiday words children might want to use in their stories and journals.

Monday, October 15, 2018


Research highlights the relationship between vocabulary and comprehension as children progress in school. Research also suggests that systematic and direct instruction can increase children’s vocabulary.  Let's see how we can PUT THOSE WORDS IN THE BRAIN!

Have a class puppet that gives a password every day. For attendance, the children say the password instead of “here.” Use this chant to introduce the password:

     Liberty, Liberty (or whatever your puppet is named),
     Oh, what do you say?
     What is the password for today?

Say, Spell, Sign
Look at the dictionary on to learn how to sign vocabulary words.

     1. Children say the password.
     2. Children fingerspell the password.

     3. Children sign the password. 

Write the vocabulary word on an index card and tape it to a visor. One child is selected to be the “supervisor” of the day and wear the visor. The “supervisor” stands at the door every time you leave and classmates must say the word before they can exit.

Name Badge
Put the word in a name badge and wear it (or let a student wear it) all day.
When the teacher says:
     “Right now! Right now! Right now! Right now!
     Whisper the password out right now.”

Children say the word.
Children then find a partner and use the word in a sentence.

Sunday, October 14, 2018


Sometimes I think we put the cart before the horse.  What am I talking about?  Well, we start letter writing before children even know what "curve," "line," " horizontal," or "vertical" mean.  Here are some basic terms children need to be familiar with.

What’s a line? What’s a curve? 
Start by finding out what children know about lines and curves. Let them take turns drawing lines and curves on the board. Can they walk around the room and touch a line? Can they touch a curve? As you walk down the hall have them silently point to lines and curves. Can they find lines and curves in nature on the playground?

Play Dough
Draw lines and curves with a permanent marker on placemats or plastic plates. Let children roll the dough and place it on top of the lines and curves.


Letter Sort 
What letters are made from lines? Curves? Lines and curves? Let children sort magnetic letters on the board or for a center activity.


I love this song that two teachers taught me several years ago.

Horizontal, Vertical (Carrie O’Bara and Terri Miller)
(Tune: “Where Is Thumbkin?”)
Horizontal, horizontal,
(Forearms held up horizontally in front of chest.)
Vertical, vertical.
(Forearms bent at elbows to form right angles.)
Horizontal, horizontal,
Vertical, vertical.

Then diagonal, then diagonal.
(Right arm slants in front and then left.)
Add a curve. Add a curve.
(Make a “c” with right hand and then left.)
Then diagonal, then diagonal.
Add a curve. Add a curve.

Harry Horizontal and Venny Vertical
Children will never forget horizontal and vertical with these friends!


Practice Books 
This is a super idea to help children learn to track from left to right and practice pre-writing strokes. Lay 4 sheets of paper on top of each other and staple four times along the left side. Cut horizontal lines to make four skinny books. Children practice drawing horizontal lines, vertical lines, curves, and diagonal lines on each page.

Prepare sheets of paper ahead of time with random curves and lines made with a black marker. Children choose a sheet of paper and try and create a design or object from the lines and curves on their page. *Encourage them to fill in the whole page.

Saturday, October 13, 2018


O.K.  So you've got enough ideas for Halloween!  Just let me tell you some jokes, riddles, and knock-knocks today and I'll move on.  

Jokes and riddles are a delightful way to develop children’s sense of humor as well as language standards (Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases…).  You might want to choose one joke each day and write it on the board.  Invite the children to read it with you.  Ask children who "get it" to “think out loud” and explain their interpretation to classmates. This will enable children who “don’t get it” to scaffold to a higher level.

P.S.  I just love these jokes because they are so CLEAN!

What kind of bats fly around the school at night?

What do ghosts put on their cereal in the morning?
“Boo” berries and “boo”nanas.

What do you get when you take the inside out of a hotdog?
A “hollow” weenie.

What are the birds giving out for Halloween this year?

Why was the baby ghost sad?
He wanted his “mummy.”
What did the boy ghost say to the girl ghost?
You sure are “boo” tiful!

How do you make a witch itch?
You take away the W.

What pants do ghosts wear?
BOO jeans.

What do ghosts serve for dessert?
I scream!

What did one jack-o-lantern say to the other jack-o-lantern
on their way to the party?
Let’s get “glowing”!

Why do witches fly around on broomsticks?
Because their vacuum cleaners are too heavy.

What did the little ghost say to his mom?
“I’ve got a boo boo!”

How do you make a skeleton laugh?
Tickle it’s funny bone.
Why did the vampires cancel their baseball game?
Because they couldn’t find their bats.

Where do baby ghosts go during the day?
DaySCARE centers.

Who did Frankenstein take to the party?
His ghoul friend.
How do you mend a broken jack-o-lantern?
With a pumpkin patch.

What’s a ghost’s favorite party game?
Hide and go shriek!
What do baby ghosts wear on their feet?


Knock knock! 

Who's there?
Orange who?

Orange you glad it's Halloween?

Knock Knock!
Who’s there?
Olive who?
Olive Halloween!

Knock knock!
Who's there?


Boo who? 

I didn’t mean to make you cry.
Knock knock! 

Who's there?

Frank who?

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Wanda who?
Wanda go for a ride on my broomstick?
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Phillip who?
Phillip my bag with candy.

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Ben who?
Ben waiting for Halloween all year.

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Who who?
Are you an owl?

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Lettuce who?
Lettuce have some candy, please.
Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Justin who?
Just in time for Halloween!

Knock knock!
Who’s there?
Orange who?
Orange you glad you visited my blog today?

Friday, October 12, 2018


Here's my new video called "Cooking Up Some Witches' Stew."  
It will be such fun with your class, personal children, or any goblins you might know!

My students loved to say this rhyme and giggle when the witch tore her britches! (I don't know why that was so silly to them, but it was.)

3 Little Witches
(Tune: “Ten Little Indians”)
One little, two little, three little witches. (Hold up 3 fingers.)
Flying over haystacks, flying over ditches. (Fly fingers in the air.)
Slid down the moon and tore their britches! (Touch pants and then cover eyes.)
Hi, ho, Halloween’s here! (Clap hands.)

Choose three children to be witches and act out the song. Make brooms by rolling up several sheets of newspaper. Tape. Cut down 8” from one end and fluff.

Stirring Our Brew
Stirring and stirring and stirring our brew… (Pretend to stir.)
Wooooooo! Woooooo! (Cup hands by mouth.)
Stirring and stirring and stirring our brew… (Stir.)
Wooooooo! Wooooo! (Cup hands by mouth.)
Tip-toe. Tip-toe. BOO! (Pretend to tip-toe.)

Witch’s Stew 
How about a little witch’s stew for snack. You will need 5 lunch sacks, 1 large bowl, Cheerios, pretzel sticks, fish crackers, raisins, M & M’s, ice cream cones. Write “frog eyes” on one sack and fill with Cheerios. Write “salted bones” on the second sack and fill with pretzel sticks. Write “dead fish” on the third sack and fill with fish crackers. Write “toad eyes” on the fourth sack and fill with raisins. Write “lizard gizzards” on the fifth sack and fill with M&M’s. Place the large bowl on the floor and make up a story about collecting all the items for your witch’s stew. One at a time let children come up and dump the contents in the bowl. Stir with a spoon as you sing the above song. Serve in ice cream cones. (Hint! You can substitute peanuts, miniature marshmallows, or other snack foods for any of the ingredients.)

Handprint Art 
Trace around children’s hands and feet on white paper. Glue to black construction paper and let children add details.

Ghost Busters
Cut ghost shapes out of white paper. Write letters, numerals, words, or whatever skill you want to reinforce on the ghosts. Staple ghosts to a bulletin board and let the children identify the information as they swat the ghosts with a fly swatter.
*You can make a similar game from a file folder. Glue a hand to a craft stick and use to swat the ghosts.

Scary Things
Halloween is a good time to talk about things that are real and things that are pretend. It’s also helpful to talk about things that scare us. I always talk about things that scare me, and that usually encourages the children to open up and talk about things that scare them. Everybody’s afraid of something, and that’s O.K. Make a class book called “Scary Things” where each child draws their fears and dictates or writes a story about them.

Thursday, October 11, 2018


Spiders are a good substitute for scary things this time of year. These plastic rings are cheap, plentiful, and perfect for hands-on activities.

Ask children to sort the rings. What was their sorting rule?

Put different amounts of spider rings in bags or cups. Number the cups. Children count and then record their answers.

Draw spider webs and label with numerals or number words. Children make appropriate sets. 

Addition and Subtraction
Children can work out math problems with the spider rings.

Fill a plastic jar with spider rings. Children estimate how many and then write it on a sheet of paper with their name. At the end of the day count the spiders. Who guessed more? Less? Who was closest?

Give each child a spider ring. Can you put it above your head? Can you put it beside you? Can you put it between your knees? Etc.

Children can use spider rings to sing the “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Sing “The BIG FAT Spider” with a loud voice. Sing the “Teensy Weensy Spider” with a high, squeaky voice.

Nursery Rhyme
Let one child be little Miss Muffet. Tie a string to a spider ring and let another child dangle it as you say the rhyme.

Cut notches in a paper plate. Children can weave yarn through the notches and then tie a ring to the end of the yarn.
Children can dip spiders in paint and then use them like paint brushes.

Can children continue a pattern with the spiders? Can they create an AB, or ABB pattern?
Children draw a spider web on a paper plate. They can write a story about a spider on the back of the plate.

What’s the difference between a spider and an insect? How many legs does a spider have? How many legs on 2 spiders? 3 spiders?

Sticky Drippy Spiders 
Your students will also be delighted with this bottle. Pour about 1 cup of clear corn syrup in a plastic bottle. (The amount you need will depend on the size of the bottle. I really like to use larger round containers, but this was the only one I had on hand.) Add a few drops of red and yellow food coloring and swirl around to make orange. Add a few plastic spiders and watch them do their thing. (I used spider rings and cut the ring part off. I also put in a few bats.)

Spider Puppet
You will need paper plates, construction paper, an old sock, markers, and a stapler to make this project. Decorate two plates to look like a spider’s body. Cut eight 8” x 1 12” strips for the spider’s legs. Glue 4 legs on either side of the body. Staple the plates together around the sides where the legs are glued. Draw a face on the sock and then stick it through the center of the plates.

Spider Soup
This was one of my favorite Halloween activities! Get a large industrial size can of chicken noodle soup. Remove the wrapper and cover with construction paper. Write “spider soup” on the label. Take two packages of ramen noodles and crush. Put in a paper lunch sack and write “spider webs” on the front of the sack. Explain to the children that you’ll be having spider soup for snack. Show them the can and just LISTEN to their comments. Open the can and put it in a crock pot. (Someone will be sure to comment that they see spider legs and meat!) Show them the sack and explain that you will end crunchy spider webs to make it better. Dump those in and slowly cook until it is warm. Serve in paper cups.

Spider Applause 
Bend down thumbs and touch four fingertips from each hand. Tap gently! That’s the spider applause you get for using these ideas!


Bats in a Cave
Make a cave from a disposable bowl by turning it upside down and cutting an arch as shown. Display a certain number of bats. Put some in the cave and ask children, "How many do you see? How many do you think are in the cave?"

I Spy Bottle!
Several years ago we were eating in a Mexican restaurant in October and there were little Halloween toys in the spice bottles. It was interesting to watch adults, children, and families at every table trying to identify the objects. I guarantee this bottle will capture your students' interest!

You will need a clear plastic bottle or jar, salt or sand, and small seasonal toys.  Fill the container 2/3 full with salt or sand. Insert the toys and then screw on the top.  Shake.
*How many objects can the children find?
*Pass around the bottle and let each child make a complete sentence starting with "I spy a..."
*Have each child repeat what the previous child says and then add something they see. 
First child: I spy a spider.
Second child: I spy a spider and a bat.
Third child: I spy a spider and a bat and a cat.
*Ask younger children to draw what they see in the bottle.
*Have older students make a list of everything they find in the bottle.
*Can they write a story using the objects in the bottle?
*Use the bottle to reward children who are working quietly or children who are resting quietly.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Spiders and pumpkins and black cats - oh, my! Halloween is still weeks away, but over the next few days I'll share some "treats" with you that I've gathered over the years. Many of these rhymes and projects are like "lost artifacts" so I hope you'll keep them alive!

This is one of my all time favorite finger plays and it never goes out of style!

Jack O’ Happy
This is Jack O’ Happy. (Hands circle head and smile.)
This is Jack O’ Sad. (Hands circle head and frown.)
This is Jack O’ Spooky. (Open mouth and eyes wide.)
And this is Jack O’ Mad. (Make a mean face.)
This is Jack in pieces small. (Hold up palms.)
But in a pie he’s best of all. (Circle arms in front as if holding a pie.)

You can download a book for the children to read and color. Or, better yet, download the version with just the words so the children can make their own illustrations.

Five Little Pumpkins
(Tune: “Five Little Ducks” – Happy Everything CD)
Five little pumpkins sitting on the gate. (Hold up 5 fingers.)
The first one said, “Oh, my it’s getting late.” (Hold up thumb.)
The second one said, “There are witches in the air.” (Hold up index finger.)
The third one said, “But I don’t care.” (Hold up middle finger.)
The fourth one said, “Let’s run and run and run.” (Hold up ring finger.)
The fifth one said, “I’m ready for some fun.” (Hold up pinky.)
Ooooo! Went the wind, and out went the light. (Blow through hands, then clap.)
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight! (Roll hands behind back.)
*My students love to hold paper pumpkins and act out this rhyme. 

*It's also easy to make a flannel board activity for children to use as they say the rhyme.

Here's a Youtube video my daughter did several years ago where you can see me demonstrate the finger plays.

Now, how about some stories for October!

I must have told this story thousands of times over the past 40 years. The wonderful thing is that it's "old" to me, but most of the teachers and children have never heard it before. You'll need to practice a few times before doing it for your class, but I guarantee you'll hear, "Do it again! Do it again!"

Pumpkin House Cut and Tell Story
Materials: orange paper, scissors
Directions: Place the orange paper and scissors in your lap. As you tell the story cut out the different parts with the scissors. At end of the story, the children will be delighted with the pumpkin house!
Hint! You can also tear out the paper with your fingers.

Once there was a little old lady who lived in a funny orange house near name of your school. Her house was shaped like half a circle with the chimney at the bottom.

This little lady had a cat named child’s name in your room. This cat had a long, curved tail, so the old lady had a special door cut just for the cat’s tail.

The little lady always wore a pointed hat. She had a special door built for herself, too, so her hat would not fall off every time she went in and out the door.

The little lady had two pet birds. Their names were child’s name and child’s name. She had a window cut just for them so they could fly in and out and in and out.

It was getting close to Halloween, so all the children inteacher’s name classroom went to her house and knocked on her door. The little lady came to the door and said, “Close your eyes.” SURPRISE! It’s a jack-o-lantern!
Here's a link so you can download the directions.

Pumpkin Man Tell and Draw Story
Materials: large sheet of paper, marker 

Directions: Explain that you will need everyone to help you tell this story. Demonstrate the movements below. When you say the words in the story, then the children should make the motions.

“Knock” – pretend to knock on a door

“Rock” – move body back and forth

“Spin” – twirl hands around each other

“Come In” – make motion with hand

Draw the body parts on the paper as you come to them in the story.

Once there was a little old lady who would just sit all day and rock and spin and wait for somebody to come in.
 One day as she sat there rocking and spinning she heard a knock at the door. 

“Come in,” she called. In came two big, black boots. (Draw boots on the board.) “I can’t talk to you big, black boots,” said the little old lady. So she just sat there and she'd rock and spin until she heard a knock at the door. 

“Come in,” she called. And in came two bony legs. (Draw two skinny legs coming out of the boots.) “I can’t talk to two bony legs,” said the little old lady.
 So she just sat there and rock and spin until she heard a knock at the door.

“Come in,” she called. And in came a funny body. (Draw a pear shaped body on top of the legs.) “I can’t talk to a funny body,” said the little old lady.
 So she just sat there and rock and spin until she heard a knock at the door. 

“Come in,” she called. And in came two wiggly arms. (Draw wiggly arms coming off the body.) “I can’t talk to wiggly arms,” said the little old lady.
 So she just sat there and rock and spin until she heard a knock at the door. 

“Come in,” she called. And in came two big hands. (Draw hands at the end of the arms.) “I can’t talk to two big hands,” said the little old lady.
 So she just sat there and rock and spin until she heard a knock at the door. 

“Come in,” she called. And in came a big pumpkin head. (Draw a pumpkin head on the figure.) “Well, I can talk to a pumpkin man,” said the little old lady. And she did! 


Adaptations: End by singing “Do You Know the Pumpkin Man?” to the tune of “Do You Know the Muffin Man?”

Tuesday, October 9, 2018


Well, here I go again with more guacamole! Someone mentioned an adaption of the song for Halloween and I thought that would be fun. I asked teachers on FB if they had any good ideas and they did! One teacher mentioned that they couldn't do Halloween at their school. Hmmm? How do I keep everybody happy? I make TWO - one called Guacamole Halloween and one called Avocado Autumn. You can take a look at the lyrics below and then decide which version would be more appropriate for your class.

AVOCADO Halloween!
Form the pumpkin
Carve the pumpkin
Jack-o lantern, funny jack o lantern

Form the mummy
Wrap the mummy
Walk like a mummy

Form the skeleton
Dance the skeleton
Shake your bones

Form the brew
Cook the brew
Stir the brew - oooooo

Form the cave
Go in the cave
Bats and spiders

Put on your costume
Go trick or treat
Eat the candy eat all the candy

Form the avocado
Peel the avocado
Guacoween – happy Halloween!


Form the tree
Falling leaves
Rake the leaves

Form the pumpkin
Cook the pumpkin
Pumpkin pie – make pumpkin pie

Form the scarecrow
Dress the scarecrow
Dance the scarecrow

Form the apple
Dip the apples – make candy apples
Eat the apple

Form the football
Throw the football
Catch the football

Form the nut
Crack the nut
Squirrels eat the nuts

Form the avocado
Peel the avocado
Guacamole - eat the guacamole and have an awesome autumn!

Witches' Stew
I've made one more new YouTube video called KIDS CAFE WITH DR. JEAN.  It might be a monthly thing if you like it.  It makes me a little sad that so many schools do not allow you to cook any more.  My grandson is in 8th grade and one of his buddies still says, "I remember when your grandma came and made witches' stew and mud pies with us."  Edible memories are lasting memories!