Friday, November 22, 2019



Children love to collect things. Aren't they always bringing you rocks or leaves or flowers or nuts? A nature center would be a perfect place to display their treasures and give them the opportunity to observe and investigate natural items. 

Getting Started
Take a plastic tub and fill it with objects from a natural area in your community.  It's as simple as that!  Invite the children to bring in other interesting items that they find in nature to add to your center. 


leaves, rocks, shells, pine cones, sticks, nuts, or other natural items (rotate for different seasons)
magnifying glass
clipboard, pencils, paper
field guide book (leaves, rocks, shells, etc.)

*free exploration
*seriating by size
*observing with a magnifying glass
*sketching with a clip board
*identifying with a field guide book
*non-fiction writing


Thursday, November 21, 2019


Here's a song that introduces the long and short sounds for the vowels. Making manual signs for the letters or holding up letters will help add the visual connection as you sing.

The Vowel Song (Tune: “Are You Sleeping?” Is Everybody Happy CD)
A makes two sounds. (Echo each line.)
/A/ and /a/.
/A/ for apron, /a/ for apple.
/A/ and /a/.
/E/ and /e/ - eagle and elephant…
/I/ and /i/ - ice cream and inchworm…
/O/ and /o/ - open and octopus…
/U/ and /u/ - ukulele and uncle…


The long vowel sounds are easier for children to remember because "they just say their name." Here's a song that will help put those short vowel sounds in the brain. Of course, the letter U will be their favorite!

The Vowel Family (Tune: "BINGO" - Just for Fun CD)
Aunt Aggie had an allergy
and she would always sneeze-o (Pretend to sneeze.)
/a/a/a/a/a/ /a/a/a/a/a/ /a/a/a/a/a/
And she would always sneeze-o.

Grandpa Eddie stayed in shape
and he would exercise-o (Pretend to lift weights.)
/e/e/e/e/e/ /e/e/e/e/e/ /e/e/e/e/e/
He liked to exercise-o.

Baby Izzi had chicken pox
and she would always itch-o. (Scratch body.)
/i/i/i/i/i/ /i/i/i/i/i/ /i/i/i/i/i/
And she would always itch-o.

Cousin Otto’s throat was sore
And this is what he’d say-o. (Put hand on throat.)
/o/o/o/o/o/ /o/o/o/o/o/ /o/o/o/o/o/
And this is what he’d say-o.

Uncle Unk wore underwear
and it did stink-o. (Hold nose.)
/u/u/u/u/u/ /u/u/u/u/u/ /u/u/u/u/u/
And it did stink-o.

Let the children use the attached sheet to make vowel puppets. Tape the letters to craft sticks or glue to an envelope that's been cut in half.

Five Little Vowels (Adapted from "Monkeys and the Alligator")
Five little vowels swinging from a tree (Hold up 5 fingers.)
Teasing Mr. Alligator, “Can’t catch me! (Point finger.)
You can’t catch me!”
Along came Mr. Alligator quiet as can be (Open and close arms.)
And snatched that A right out of the tree.
/a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ (Make sign language A with hand.)


*Draw a tree on a magnetic board and remove magnetic letters as you say the chant.


While I was on my Pilgrimage to the Holy Lands Alex May (my webmaster) was busy creating some new videos.  One will help your children learn to spell number words and the other one has some silly November jokes.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019


The ability to blend simple three letter words is a big step in learning to read.  Here are some hands-on activities where children can identify initial, medial vowel, and final sounds.

Body Touch  

Blend words touching parts of the body. Touch the head as you say the beginning sound in the word. Touch the stomach as you say the middle sound. Touch the feet as you say the final sound. Quickly move from head to feet and blend the sounds. Next, challenge children to isolate where they hear the sound.
For example: Where do you hear the /p/ in cap? (Children touch toes.)

Park the Car
Make a parking lot with three spaces. As you say a word children park the car according to where they hear the sound (beginning, middle, end) of the word.


Letter Tin 
Place magnetic letters inside a cookie tin. On the inside cover make three lines with a permanent marker. Have the children take out the letters and place them around the lid. Call out a sound and have the children select that letter and place it on the first line in the lid. Call out a second sound. Call out a third sound. Blend the sounds and read the word.
Hint! Adapt the number of letters to the ability of the students.
*Store small magnetic letters in a breath mint tin.
*Let children use magnetic letters on a cookie sheet.

Unifix Cubes 
Place dot stickers on unifix cubes. Write letters on the dots.  Children can use these for constructing words.

Donut Words
Cut donut shapes out of construction paper. Write consonants on either side of the donut as shown. Write vowels on small circles. Children place the donut “holes” between the consonants and blend the sounds.

Phonics Fingers 
You will need 3 pairs of white cloth garden gloves for this project. Cut the fingers off the gloves. Write a letter on each finger with markers. (Write consonants in blue and vowels in red.) Children insert glove fingers on their own fingers to make CVC words. Have them substitute letters to make new words.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019


The idea of manipulating letters and sounds to make words is a key to beginning reading.

Name Puzzles

Write children’s names on a sentence strip. Cut between the letters. Place the puzzle pieces in an envelope. Write each child’s name and glue their photo to the front of the envelope. Children can practice putting the puzzles together and reading friends’ names.

*Make name puzzles with Unifx cubes.

Cut Up Sentences
Write a simple sentence on a sentence strip. (For example, “We like to read books.”) Place the sentence in a pocket chart and invite the children to read it with you as you move your finger from left to right under the words. Say, “I’m going to cut this sentence up,” as you cut between the words. Place the letters in a paper bag and pretend to shake them up. Let children come up and select a word and place it in the pocket chart. Guide them as they unscramble the words and make the sentence. Call their attention to the capital letter “W.” There’s always a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence. Point out the period and remark, “You’ll always find a period or punctuation at the end of a sentence.”


*Let each child complete the sentence “I like _____.” Have them cut between their words and place them in a bag. Can they put their own sentence back together?

Happy Birthday 
Whenever a child has a birthday, you’ll be able to celebrate and learn at the same time with this idea. Write each line of “Happy Birthday” on a sentence strip. Cut between the words. Arrange each line on a pocket chart. The birthday child gets to scramble the words and then friends sing along the silly lyrics. Arrange the words in the correct order and sing again.

Glue the figure of a “spaceman” to a jumbo craft stick. (I found my little guy at google images.) Use spaceman to find spaces on classroom print. Sing the Batman tune as you go, “Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da Spaceman!” Encourage children to use spaceman when writing.

Monday, November 18, 2019


What will Dr. Jean think of next?  Plastic cups for classroom management!!!  Here are a few new "tricks" for you to try!

Help Me!
Give each child a red and green cup to keep in their desk. When they are doing independent work have them place the cups on their desk with the green on top. Green means they are good to GO! If they need help they put the red cup on top to indicate, “Please STOP and help me.”

Group Check
You’ll need a red, green, and yellow cup for this activity. Stack the red (bottom), yellow (middle), and green (top) cups in that order and place them in the middle of a table where students sit. If the group gets loud, remove the green cup and the yellow will be a warning to calm down. If the noise continues remove the yellow cup and they must stop all talking.

Note! I didn’t think of this. There are several variations of it on the internet.

Dippers and Fillers
This is a popular management system that many schools use. When children are unkind or say something hurtful they are “dippers.” When they are kind they are “fillers.” Punch holes in the sides of a cup and tie on a string or pipe cleaner so children can hang them on their chairs or a bulletin board. The teacher or friends can put a token in their cup to thank them for being a “filler.”

Plastic cups can be used for organizing art materials, pencils, and other supplies.

*How about a cup for “Lost and Found Crayons” or “Lost and Found Pencils”?

Snack Cups
In addition to using cups for liquids, they’re handy for serving popcorn and other snacks to children.

*Decorate with stickers and use for party treats.

Lucky Sticks
Let each child decorate a craft stick with her name. Place the sticks in a cup labeled “lucky sticks.” When you have a special job to be done pull a stick from the cup. That’s the “lucky” winner. Put their stick in your desk after they’ve had a turn and when all the sticks are in your desk put them back in the cup and start all over.


Review Questions
Write a question on the front of the cup and write the answer inside for a self-check activity.

Divide students into groups of 4. Give each group a cup and challenge them to come up with as many uses for the cup as they can in 5 minutes.

Sunday, November 17, 2019


Helping children set realistic goals will nurture the executive function and boost their self-confidence.

Paper Airplanes
Ask children to write and illustrate goals on a piece of paper. Next, demonstrate how to fold the paper into an airplane. Let students fly their airplanes across the room or on the playground as they visualize themselves achieving their goals.

Pride Portfolio

Invite each child to decorate a file folder and store in a special box or tub in the classroom. When they do something they are proud of they can date it and store it in their folder.

*Hint! If you did this with an illustration and writing sample at the beginning of each month they could “revisit” past work and see how they are improving.

Cheers and Goals
At the beginning of each month have students fold a sheet of paper in half. On the left side write “Cheers” and encourage them to write or draw pictures of accomplishments that they are proud of. On the right side right “Goals” and have them write/draw two or three goals that they have for the coming month. Date, save, and review at the end of each month. Encourage students to reevaluate goals and set new ones.

Hint! You could also share these with parents at conference time.

Car Wash
End the day in a positive way with the car wash. Students form two lines facing each other to make the “car wash.” Students hold up palms and circle them around. One child at a time walks through the car wash as friends gently touch them and say something positive.

Pat on the Back

Students raise their right hand, stretch it across their body, and pat their left shoulder as they say, “Good job! Good job!”


*Cut hands out of construction paper. Write positive comments for students and tape them on their backs.

Eye Can
Cover a small can with construction paper. Cut pictures of eyes out of magazines and glue them on the can. Explain the importance of saying, “I can!” and “I’ll try!” Pass out the “eye can” to encourage students.

*Remind them that we say I CAN because we are AmeriCANS - not American'ts!                                                          

Gift Cards
Instead of giving out tangible rewards, create gift cards with special “treats”, such as those listed below. Write the activities on 2” x 3” rectangles and tape to used gift cards and hotel room key cards. Place in a gift bag and “invite” a child to choose a gift card for a job well done.

Eat lunch with your teacher or a special friend.
Be excused from a homework assignment.
Choose an indoor game to play.
Select the book for story time.
Sit by a favorite person all day.
15 minutes of free time.
Help the teacher do a special job.
Sit at the teacher’s desk.
Take off your shoes.
Listen to an IPod or headset while you work.
Take a class game or book home for the night.


Saturday, November 16, 2019


No matter what you do, in each class you will have race horses and turtles. The race horses finish their work before you can turn around and the turtles never finish. Here are a few tips that will encourage children to organize and prioritize their time.

Planning Journals
Each student will need a spiral notebook for a planning journal. Give them 5-10 minutes each morning to draw illustrations or write plans for the day.

Morning Meeting Routine
Sing a good morning song, give students a handshake, review the class rules, fill in the calendar, etc. Following the same routine each day will prepare students to “get ready” to learn.

Morning Mantra
Use this mantra to start your day.

     Teacher: What is my job today?
     Children: Your job is to teach us and to love us.
     Teacher: What is your job today?
     Children: Our job is to learn and to love each other.

Check Mate
Before starting a lesson, post a checklist of what students will need. As you read down the list, students respond, “Check!” if they are all set.

     Pencils? – Check!
     Paper? – Check!
     Crayons? – Check!
     Eyes Watching? – Check!
     Ears Listening? – Check!
     Hands and Feet Quiet? – Check!

“To Do” Lists and Contracts
Make daily checklists to help students stay on task. Long assignments can be overwhelming, but completing one step at a time is more manageable.

Fist List
When the teacher gives directions the students put up a finger for each step they are to follow.

Give students contracts with different activities/centers/tasks listed. As they complete the tasks they can color in each section. Contracts could be done on a weekly basis or for a unit of study.

*You could also use a check off list, a tic-tac-toe frame, or a Bingo card.

Catch Up Folder
Students keep a “catch up folder” in their desk with work that needs to be completed.


Use a timer to encourage students to finish work and “beat” the timer.

Five Minute Person
Create a classroom job called “the five minute person.” When there are five minutes left on the playground, five minutes left in the lunch room, five minutes left in reading, etc. that person holds up five fingers and walks around the room saying, “Five more minutes. Five more minutes.”


Friday, November 15, 2019


I'm not talking politics here. I'm talking about a characteristic that many perceive as a bigger predictor of life success and reading success than IQ. You know executive function is important when Cookie Monster is working on it with his song, "Me Want More But Me Wait!"

Definitions of EF are broad and diverse, but these are some common characteristics of the executive function:

Inhibition – can think about consequences before acting

Self-regulation – can stop oneself from inappropriate behavior

Initiation – starts new tasks independently

Delayed Gratification – resists immediate reward for a larger reward later

Adaptability and Flexibility – is able to shift focus and adapt strategies

Emotional Control – is aware of and can manage feelings

Focus – can attend to details and avoid being distracted

Does this sound like that "perfect student"?

My Office Space
With a personal “office” your students will be able to organize their work space and stay focused.

Materials: 2 file folders for each child, wide packaging tape, copy of class word wall, hundreds chart,markers, crayons, stickers, etc.

Directions Tape two file folders together for each child. Let them decorate the outside with markers, magazine pictures, trading cards, stickers, etc. Staple a copy of the word wall, correct letter formation, color words, or other pertinent information to the file folders. When children write in their journals or do independent work, they can stand up their “office” on their desk. 

Here are some helpful websites for teachers and parents: 

Thursday, November 14, 2019


Cooperative work groups provide children with the opportunity to set goals, plan, communicate, problem solve, and be creative.  

It might be interesting to assign roles, such as the supervisor (leader), secretary (takes notes), and reporter (shares information), cheerleader (team member who encourages).

Hint! To enable different students to have leadership roles, you could have a “lucky draw” for these positions. Write “supervisor,” “secretary,” “reporter,” and “cheerleader” on jumbo craft sticks. Place in a can, shake, and then let team members chose a random role.

Here are a few opportunities for small groups:

Do a social studies or science project around an assigned theme. They could make a poster, write a report, do a skit, make a video, etc.

Brainstorm! Make lists!

Do surveys and collect data.

Write a play, story, poem, rap, or song and present it to the class.

Play a board game.

Work on a science experiment together.

Write letters to politicians, authors, or other famous people.

Make books together.

Answer questions. Teacher asks a question and they get together to come up with an answer they agree on.

Work on an invention.

Do an internet search.

How about a PowerPoint or video?

Pass the Pat
Encourage children to recognize the efforts of each member in their group. Have them stand in a circle and take turns patting each other on the back and saying a contribution each team member made.

Upper Grade Buddies  
Do collaborative learning activities with different groups.  Kindergarteners could be paired with 4th graders or classes on the same grade level could be partnered. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019


One of the best ways to help children learn to work with others is with "buddy time." Besides, it's more fun to learn with a friend than it is alone. Take a look at this list and you'll probably find at least five strategies you can use in your classroom this week.

Buddy Sticks
If you let children choose who they want to work with you might end up with two that shouldn't be together or someone that is left out. Buddy sticks are a great solution!


Put like stickers on the bottoms of two craft sticks.  (You will need as many sticks as there are children in your classroom.)  Place sticks in a plastic cup with stickers facing down.  Children choose a stick and then find the person whose stick matches theirs.  That is their partner.

*If there is an odd number, let the last child choose the group she wants to work with.

Weekly Study Buddy

To make buddy management a little simpler, have children use buddy sticks on Monday to find their "study buddy" for the week.  Whenever you want them to work with a partner, just say "study buddy" and you'll be all set!

Elbow Buddies

Children extend elbows and the first person their elbow touches is their partner.

What can children do with a study buddy?

Read together.

Look at books or magazines together.

Retell a story. They can also discuss who, what, where, when, why, the problem, resolution, what might happen next, etc.

Whisper a prediction in each other’s ear.

Review information after a science lesson, social studies, etc.

Clean up a center or each other’s desks.

Read around the room. Give them pointers and empty glasses frames for more fun.

Write the room. Give them clipboards and ask them to write words that would reinforce a skill you are working on. For example, they could write compound words, words with the “th” diagraph, two syllable words, etc.

Sing a song or say nursery rhymes together.
Help with dressing, such a zipping coats and tying shoes.

Draw a picture together. They could draw their favorite part of a story, illustrate a poem, draw a picture of their teacher, and so forth.

Build together with blocks, Legos, etc.

Play with play dough or clay together. They can make objects that begin with a certain sound, shapes, sets, etc.

Play a computer game.

Review flashcards.

Partner Pop Up Q & A 
Students stand and face their study buddy. The teacher poses a question. The students talk it over, agree on an answer, and then stoop down. When the teacher sees all students down she says, “Pop!” The students pop up and say their answer out loud. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019


Genius hour is an exciting movement that might actually help children develop meaningful job skills that I discussed yesterday. It’s based on Google’s 20% policy which allows engineers to spend 20% of their time on any project they are interested in. It’s estimated that half of Google’s projects (such as Gmail) have been created during this time period. Other corporations are discovering that giving employees one hour a week really does increase creativity.

I know that many of you are frustrated by cookie cutter curriculums and time schedules, but this might be a way to help your administration support a little creativity and exploration in your classroom. Can't we give kids at least one hour a week to find some joy in learning what they WANT to learn?

A.J. Juliani wrote this book that explains the goals and success of INQUIRY AND INNOVATION IN THE CLASSROOM. The three pillars of genius hour are:

     1. You have to research something.
     2. You have to create something.
     3. You have to present something.

Here's what Kid President says:

Here’s another video introduction to genius hour:

You might also want to check out this website:

My idea of genius hour in kindergarten would be an hour of open-ended learning centers every Friday afternoon. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just let kids play and explore for one hour a week?  That one hour could truly make a difference in a child’s learning, sense of self worth, attitude about school, and their life!!!!

Monday, November 11, 2019


School districts may be winning the battle with higher test scores, but they might actually be losing the war in terms of well-rounded and educated citizens.

The studies of job skills major corporations look for in employees include:

Verbal communication
Teamwork – ability to work with others
Problem solving
Written communication
Positive attitude

Hmmm?? Do you see test scores, rigor, or technology in the above?  The roots of what our children need one day to be successful and healthy adults are what we promote through active learning, working/playing with classmates, centers, games, and creative and open-ended activities.

When children have time to express themselves and teachers have time to listen they are developing verbal skills.

When they play games and do partner projects they are developing teamwork.

When they make choices and aren't afraid to make mistakes they are problem solving.

When they have materials and freedom they can develop creativity.

When they are allowed to make choices to explore areas they are interested in they will be self-motivated.

When they take notes, set goals, and record what they are learning in journals they are developing written communication.

When they laugh, have fun, sing, and play they will have a positive attitude.

And when they learn that there are many ways to be wonderful they will develop flexibility.

Shut your door and teach children what they really need when they grow up!!!  

Sunday, November 10, 2019


And here's the Spanish version that my webmaster Alex May created.

Song Visuals    
You can also write the days of the week on seven paper plates as shown. Glue pictures to the plates or let children draw the foods.  Pass these out to seven children and let them stand in front of the room and hold up their plate at the appropriate time in the song.


Calendar Time
Every morning you can sing, "Today is day of the week.  Day of the week (special like music, PE, art).  All you lucky children, well, that's O.K."

My Favorite Foods
Fold two sheets of paper in half and staple to make a book. The children can write a different day on each page and then draw their favorite foods. (The teacher who shared this idea years ago said one little boy who was a picky eater drew macaroni and cheese on every page!)

Saturday, November 9, 2019


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.