Saturday, November 17, 2018


Do you need a few more activities to do this week?  These books are a "timely" way to nurture nonfiction writing and gratitude!

Thankful Journal
Make a special journal for each child to use during the month of November. Several times a week ask them to draw, list, or write sentences about things they are grateful for.  You can use napkins, paper plates, or a fork as shown.

Thankful Board
Designate a bulletin board or poster in the hall as your “thankful board.” Children can attach sticky notes or draw pictures of things they are thankful for throughout the month.

Thankful for Friends
Jane Lake shared this idea with me several years ago.  Fold 3 sheets of paper in half and staple.  Children use one of the prompts below on each page of their book.

     1. A good friend is…
     2. I’m a good friend when…
     3. What friends like to do together…
     4. Symbols of friendship…
     5. Names of my friends…


Thankful Song 

(Tune: “Are You Sleeping?”  Children repeat each line.)
I am thankful.
I am thankful.
Every day.
Every day.
For my friends and family.
For my friends and family.
Thanks I say!
Thanks I say!

Friday, November 16, 2018


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 Litwin'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.

Thursday, November 15, 2018


Burn those old written book report forms and try some of these ideas for sparking children’s interest in reading!

Play Dough
Give children a handful of play dough and ask them to mold something from the story. Tell classmates how what they made relates to their story.
Challenge children to make a hat to represent their book.  Have a parade and let children discuss their books.

Put out the scrap box, scissors, and markers and let them create a bookmark that represents their book.

Children get to pantomime a character or event.

Song, Rap, or Poem
Let children make up an original song, rap, or poem about their book.

*This would be fun to do with a partner or group who read the same book.

Each child stands and has a minute to “sell” their classmates on a book. Older children could write their advertisements.

Let children draw or paint pictures about their books.

Puppets can be made from lunch sacks, paper plates, sticks, or socks.
Give each child an 8” square and ask them to illustrate their story. Punch holes in the corners and tie together with yarn.

Each child writes their book title on a strip of construction paper.  Staple together to make a “story chain.”

Dress Up 
Children dress up like their favorite character and tell about their book from that character’s point of view.
*Hint!  One teacher said they did this at her school instead of Halloween costumes.

Bring in old white T-Shirts and decorate with fabric markers.

Write an email or letter to a character.
*Write a letter to the author.

Invite children to write a sequel to their story.

How would you change the ending of your story?

Make cartoons of events in a story.
Make a class graph of favorite books or authors.

Sandwich Board
Cut a file folder in half. Write the title, author, and illustrator on one side. Illustrate on the other half. Punch holes and tie on string so children can wear them and have a parade.
Several children work in a group to create a mural of a book.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


FUNCTIONAL PRINT books provide another opportunity for nonfiction reading and writing.

The Tooth Book
Have children draw a picture of what they look like after they lose a tooth.

*Remind them to be sure and draw a “window” in their mouth where their tooth used to be!
*You could also take a photo of their new smile and let them write about how they lost their tooth.

Weather Report
Choose a different child each day to be the meteorologist. Invite the weather person to record the weather with a drawing or sentence.

The Birthday Book
Have children write a story and draw a picture on a special page in this book when it’s their birthday. (You could also take a photo of them.)
School Rule Book
After discussing school rules, ask each child to come up with a rule that they think is important. Have them illustrate their rule and write or dictate a sentence to go with it. Put their rules together to make a class book. Hang the book in an important spot in your classroom and refer to it when children are behaving inappropriately. You might add, “You need to do (such and such). The rule is right here in our book!”

Things the Teacher Needs to Know
When a child comes to you to complain or tattle, hand them the book and say, “Write it all down and don’t leave out a thing. I’ll read it later on when I have more time.”

The Boo Boo Book
If a child gets a little scrape or scratch, have them draw a picture of it in this book. Give them a band aid to put on their “boo boo” so it will feel better.
Acts of Kindness
Create a book where children can record kind deeds their fellow classmates have done.

Hint! The teacher can model this by “catching children” in the act of doing something thoughtful and loving for others.

Excuse Book
If children forget their homework or have other excuses, let them “write it down” in this book.

Peace Talks
If two children have an argument, have them sit down next to each other at a table. Open a spiral notebook and ask each of them to draw a picture and write about what happened. Explain that when they resolve their problem they can let you know. It won’t take long for them to realize it’s easier to be friends!

*You can download covers for some of these at (Back to School 2005).  You can also buy spiral notebooks on sale and then add a class photo and title.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


The other day my husband said, "I just don't get this Facebook thing." I laughed and said, "I don't get it either, but I'm trying!" It's the way the world communicates now, and these ideas will motivate your students to do nonfiction writing.

Facebook (Ruth Lefko )

Take two boxes and write "Facebook In Box" on one and "Facebook Out Box" on the other. Provide children with scrap paper, pencils, and markers. Children fold a sheet of paper in half and draw their face or a picture on the front. Inside they write a note to the teacher or a friend and place it in the "In Box." The messages are delivered and then the teacher or friend write a reply and place it in the "Out Box." 



Class Facebook (Laura Caudle)
Take the children’s pictures and make a class facebook. Run off a copy for each child. Use it for writing messages to friends, name songs, etc.

Monday, November 12, 2018


Here are other ways to encourage children to do informational writing.

Suggestion Box

Keep a shoebox and blank paper on a shelf for children to write their complaints and suggestions.
*Use for complaints and “tattle tales.”

What can you find out?
Collect non-fiction books about a topic that you will be studying in your class. Place the books on a table along with clipboards, paper, and pencils. Let two children work together and take notes to look in the books and see what they can find out (learn) about the topic.

Science Journal
Have each child make a science journal to record observations, notes, and what they are doing and learning in science.
Picture Talks
Cut pictures out of magazines and ask the children to label.
*Cut people out of catalogs and label body parts.

Letters - Write letters to politicians, movie stars, rock stars, or other famous people.

*Write letters to our troops.

Want Ad - Look in the newspaper at want ads. What would they like to advertise? Write a description.

Write a newscast for your classroom or school.

Headline News 

uh vWrite new headlines for pictures in the newspaper. Write who, what, where, when, and why about a photo in the newspaper.

Take surveys on the bus, in their home, or in their neighborhood. They might ask who’s going to win the football game, favorite pizza topping, favorite book, favorite game, etc.

Class Newspaper 
Make a class newspaper by assigning small groups of children to different topics. Run off and send home.

Pen Pals
Children can be pen pals with another class in your district, or you can go online and you’ll find several sites. They can even be pen pals with their teacher over the summer.

Sunday, November 11, 2018


Nonfiction writing is all around us from signs to newspapers to emails to food wrappers. Most state standards include informational writing similar to the Common Core Standard below: 
Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are 

writing about and supply some information about the topic.

Over the next few days I’ll suggest some activities where children can have the opportunity to be engaged in “playful and challenging” nonfiction writing. These activities can be used for independent work or in a literacy center. Many would also be perfect to do with a partner. 

Have children interview parents, friends, school personnel, etc.

*Ask their parents what it was like when they were in school. What games did they play? What was their favorite subject? What was their favorite book?
Write directions or a “how to” for, a sport, a game, a craft, or something they are good at.

Write a recipe for a favorite food.

*This time of year it would be interesting for children to write “how to cook a turkey."
*Create a menu for a restaurant they would like to own.

*Ask children to bring in an empty cereal box and design a new cover for it.

Note!  When making class books where every child contributes have a page where children can sign their names as "authors and illustrators."  You can also let the children "dedicate" the book and include the copyright date and publisher.
Make lists of books they read, toys they own, what they can do instead of watching TV, things in their desk, etc. 

*As Thanksgiving approaches a list of things they are thankful for would be appropriate.

Write invitations to a class program or party.

Write suggestions on “how to be a good friend,” or “what to do when you get angry.”

Let children have a quiet time each day to write in a journal or diary.

Riddles & Knock Knocks
Let each child write a riddle or joke to add to a class book. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018


I met Elisabeth Thomison in Austin a few weeks ago. She told me about "Captain Letter" and I was hooked! It's amazing how teachers can take standards and use their creativity to make them come ALIVE for young children!  These kids are never going to forget their letters because Elisabeth has given them a personal connection.  Talk about sparking interest!  I'll let her tell you more about it...

What kid doesn't want to be a super hero? No kid! Captain Letter started in my class when our new curriculum came with a little vest and some letter cards. The idea was, every day, one child would wear the vest and find a letter to match the one in their pocket. This worked for a couple of days, but the kids got bored. So....I started brainstorming and Captain Letter was born. One quick trip to my sewing room with a couple of yards of felt and we had a vest/cape combo that the kids were excited to wear. I started telling the kids, you aren't the letter captain, you are Captain Letter! Captain Letter is chosen in the morning at Circle Time. We sing the song and Captain Letter wears the cape all day. That child is responsible for finding their letter and things that start with their letter all day. The kids love it and take their jobs very seriously! 

Check out these videos to see how Elisabeth selects Captain Letter and the song she uses. I must warn you that you'll want to sing it the rest of the day it's so catchy!!!


Here's Elisabeth's email address if you want to know more:

Friday, November 9, 2018


It can be a "chore" to get children to do chores, but housekeeping jobs help children feel "worthy" and a valuable part of the family unit.  Chores can also be a powerful way to develop "task initiation and task completion" (aka the executive function).

Parent Conferences
One teacher explained that when she had parent conferences she emphasized the importance of having children do chores and take responsibility for helping their family. There are several good website with ideas for chores children can do:      

We often “assume” that children know how to do a task and then we get frustrated when they don’t do it correctly. That’s why it’s important to model expectations and demonstrate specific steps. Here's an activity that would be perfect for a learning center or housekeeping area.

Setting the Table
Bring in some plastic plates, utensils, and cups and demonstrate how to set the table. You might want to trace around the items on a paper placemat so the children can match one to one.

Training Tools
Go to the dollar store and purchase a dustpan, broom, duster, etc. Demonstrate how to use these and then invite children to help you keep the classroom clean.

Teeny Tiny Duties
Let children share the chores that they have at home. Make a list of these tasks on the board. Ask children to choose three or four that they could do to help at home and make a job chart. Tell them to hang it on the refrigerator and keep track for a week. Demonstrate how to make a check mark each day when they complete the task.


Thursday, November 8, 2018


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?”

*Check out my website ( for more ideas this month.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018


Who's there today?  Waddle, Gladys, Harry, Aida, Dewey, and Arthur with some jokes for you.

You might want to write one each day on the board and discuss it at morning meeting. It’s also good to tell these multiple times because it will take some of your kiddles a while to “get it.” 

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Waddle who?
Waddle I do without you?

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?

Gladys who?
Gladys Thanksgiving, aren’t you?

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Harry who?
Harry up, I’m hungry!

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Aida who?
Aida let you in if I knew it was you.

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Dewey who?
Dewey have to wait long to eat?

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Arthur who?
Arthur any leftovers?

What kind of music did the Pilgrims Like?
Plymouth Rock

What key won’t open any door?
A turkey.

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?

Why was the turkey the drummer in the band?
Because he had drumsticks.

Why did the turkey cross the road?
It was the chicken’s day off.
Why did the chewing gum cross the road?
It was stuck on the turkey’s foot.

Which side of the turkey has the most feathers?
The outside.

What do you find at the end of Thanksgiving?
The letter ‘G.’

What always comes at the beginning of parades?
The letter ‘P’.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018


Here's a video I made for your children.

Many things go in and out of style, but a good story is everlasting. I've got two of my favorite turkey tales for you today. I first heard Timmy Turkey about 40 years ago. In the original story grandmother turns Timmy into a color that "everyone will like" and you pull out a picture of a roasted turkey on a platter. I thought that might be a little too graphic for the kiddles, so I adapted it to be "kinder and gentler." The alliteration and oral language, as well as the sequencing skills, are perfect for engaging children. I guarantee they'll want to hear the story again and again.

Directions: Download the pattern and cut the turkey's body out of the front of a file folder. Insert colors of construction paper inside the file folder according to the story. (brown, blue, red, green, yellow, purple, and multi-color) Glue the words to the back of the folder so you can just read it and remove one sheet of paper at a time.

*Encourage the children to join in on the chorus!

TIMMY TURKEY                             
Once upon a time there was a beautiful brown turkey named Timmy. One day as he strutted down the road he heard a bluebird say:

Ha, ha, ha! He, he, he!
You’re the funniest turkey I ever did see.
Timmy Turkey replied: Oh, dear, oh, dear! Oh, me, oh, me!
Why am I the funniest turkey you ever did see?
The bluebird answered: You should be blue like me. It’s such a peaceful color.
So Timmy went home a dyed himself blue. (Remove the brown paper to reveal a blue turkey.)

The next day as Timmy strutted down the road he heard a red hen say:
Ha, ha, ha! He, he, he!
You’re the funniest turkey I ever did see.
Timmy replied: Oh, dear, oh, dear! Oh, me, oh, me!
Why am I the funniest turkey you ever did see?
The redbird answered: You should be red like me. It’s such a bright color.
So Timmy went home and dyed himself red. (Remove the blue paper to reveal a red turkey.)

The following day as Timmy was strutting down the road he heard a green frog croak:
Ha, ha, ha! He, he, he!
You’re the funniest turkey I ever did see?
Timmy sadly replied: Oh, dear, oh, dear! Oh, me, oh, me!
Why am I the funniest turkey you ever did see?
The frog croaked: You should be green like me. Green is the color of life!
So what do you think Timmy did? That’s right! He went home and dyed himself green.
(Remove the red paper to reveal a green turkey.)

Timmy was strutting down the road a beautiful shade of green the next day when he heard a yellow cat say: Ha, ha, ha! He, he, he!
You’re the funniest turkey I ever did see!
Timmy answered: Oh, dear, oh, dear! Oh, me, oh, me!
Why am I the funniest turkey you ever did see?
The cat laughed and said: Who ever heard of a green turkey?
You should be yellow like me. It’s such a happy color.
Yes, you’re right! Timmy went home that night and dyed himself yellow. (Remove the green paper to reveal a yellow turkey.)
The next day Timmy was strutting down the road again when he heard a purple parrot squawk:
Ha, ha, ha! He, he, he!
You’re the funniest turkey I ever did see!
Timmy said: Oh, dear, oh, dear! Oh, me, oh, me!
Why am I the funniest turkey you ever did see?
The parrot squawked: Yellow’s no color for a turkey.
You should be purple like me. Purple is the color of royalty.
Timmy went home immediately and dyed himself purple. (Remove the yellow sheet of paper to reveal the purple turkey.)
Once again Timmy was walking down the road when he heard his turkey friends laughing. They said: Ha, ha, ha! He, he, he!
You’re the funniest turkey we ever did see!
Timmy cried and said: Oh, dear, oh, dear! Oh, me, oh, me!
Why am I the funniest turkey you ever did see?
The other turkeys replied: Who ever heard of a purple turkey?
You look so silly!
Timmy slowly walked home and as he walked he thought to himself, “I have dyed myself blue, red, green, yellow, and purple, and I have pleased no one.” Then he got a brilliant idea! He got all the bottles of dye and made all his feathers different colors. (Remove the purple sheet of paper to reveal the turkey with the colorful feathers.)
The next day as Timmy Turkey strutted down the road everyone laughed and cheered!
Ha, ha, ha! He, he, he!
You’re the most beautiful turkey we ever did see!
And that’s why you always see turkeys with beautiful tail colors!

Timmy Turkey Download
Note!  To make the final turnkey I cut little feathers and glued them to make a collage as shown.

This next story is a tell and draw story.  After you do it several times invite the children to retell the story and draw along with you.
Once there was a little old lady who lived out in the country.

Her house was shaped like an oval.  (head)

It had a little window that was a circle.  (eye)

She had a garden beside her house.  (beak)

And she planted seeds there.

Near her house there was a lake.  (body)

And there was a little island in the lake.  (wing)

Campers from the city would come and pitch tents by the lake.  (feet)

They would walk to the lake to look at the fish in the water.  (legs)

They would also watch the geese on the island.

But the people made so much noise they scared the geese and away they flew.  (feathers)

The little old lady heard all the commotion and went down to the lake to see what was going on.  (neck)

What do you think she saw?

When she got home she laughed and said, “OWA TAGOO SIAM!”

Say this faster and faster and it will sound like, “Oh, what a goose I am!”

Here’s a copy that might be a little easier to follow: