Wednesday, July 17, 2019


If I were in charge of the world, this is something that I would put in each child's hands. It's so simple and inexpensive, but it could give a lasting memory to a child.  This idea could be adapted for any age group or skill level.

On a personal note!  I have a friend with Alzheimer's who has a difficult time carrying on a conversation.  Another friend took her out to lunch, and I asked, "What did you talk about?"  She replied, "Oh, we don't talk.  I put on the 50's radio station and we sing!"  And that's why we must sing with children and teach them poems.  Those songs and rhymes will stay tucked in their brain, and they might give them a smile and a few minutes of happy memories one day!

What?  pocket folders with 3 prongs, copies of poems and songs, markers, art media

Why?  love of reading, oral language, phonological awareness, social skills, reading skills

When?  large group, small group, independent, home/school

How?  Purchase a pocket folder for each child.  This will be a good project for them to decorate the first week of school.  Think of 4 or 5 simple songs, nursery rhymes, or poems that you would like to introduce the first month of school.  (I would not put illustrations on these because the children will be able to make a personal connection with their own drawings.)  Run off copies of these and insert them in the pocket folder.  Each week introduce one of the songs using the strategies below.  As the year progresses add new songs or rhymes that would engage the children or relate to a theme or season.

Hint!  Some good songs might include: “Twinkle Little Star,” “BINGO,” “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “The Farmer in the Dell,” “London Bridge,” “Yankee Doodle,” “Jack and Jill,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “The Alphabet Song,” or “Rain, Rain, Go Away.”

Monday - Introduce the poem as a shared reading experience. Reread the poem several times using one of these strategies:

     Shadow Reading– Teacher reads a line and then students repeat.

     Magic Word– Choose a “magic word” (high frequency word) in the text. Every time you   come to that word, the children get to clap, jump, snap, etc.

     Say What?Read the wrong way and have children correct you by shouting out, “Say what?”

     Missing Word – Omit a word and have the children fill it in.

     Read with me IF you…like chocolate ice cream
     like broccoli have a dog
     can ride a bike are wearing red

     Stand and Read – Children stand and take a small step to the right for each word. At end of the line jump “down” to the next line. Everyone moves back to the left and quickly moves to the right with every word until the end of the next line. Repeat until the end of the poem.

     Take a Turn- Divide children into groups and each section reads a different line. For example: Let boys and girls alternate reading lines.
Let children use pointers to find letters or words they can recognize, point out words that rhyme, punctuation, etc.  Have children illustrate the poem or song as an independent activity.

Wednesday - Use the poem for skill work during small group. Highlight parts of speech, sight words, etc.

Thursday - Children bring notebooks to large group and reread this week’s rhyme and review previous poems.

Friday - Children read poems independently or with a buddy.

Weekend Homework - On Friday, let children take home their poetry notebooks. Ask children to read the poem to someone in their family over the weekend. Encourage parents to sign their name and write their comments and compliments on each poem.

Carolyn has created the COOLEST alphabet poems that are just right for your poetry songbook.  What a great way to start your year!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


Here’s another self-check game that can be used at the beginning of the year for learning friends’ names and later on for phonics and math.

What? spatula or pancake turner, corrugated cardboard, fun foam, markers, students’ pictures

Why? names, letters, sounds, math facts, contractions, antonyms, etc.

When? Small group, center

How? Cut 3 ½” circles out of cardboard or fun foam. Write uppercase letters on one side and lowercase letters on the other. Place the circles on the floor or a table. Children name the letter on one side, and then flip it over to self-check.

*Write words on one side and glue matching pictures on the back.

*Write children’s names on one side and glue their picture on back.


*Put pictures on one side and initial consonants or vowels on back.

*Write questions on the front and the answer on the reverse side.

*Write antonyms on opposite sides.

*Write two words on the front and the contraction on the back.

*Write the word in Spanish on one side and the English translation on the back.

Monday, July 15, 2019


This game can be adapted to a variety of skills. It’s an activity your students will WANT to do over and over.

What? colored construction paper or card stock, spring clothespins, markers, scissors, string

Why? sight words, letters, numerals, shapes, etc.

When? Small group, learning center, partner

How? Cut clothes out of construction paper and write skills on them. Tie a string (clothesline) between two chairs. Spread the clothes on the floor as you say, “My house is so messy. Who can help me clean it up?” Children take turns choosing an item, identifying the information, and then hanging it on the clothesline.

*Put days of the week on the clothes for the children to hang up in order.

*Write numbers (1-10 whatever you are working on) for the children to put in order.

*Write words in Spanish on some clothes and words in English on others. Children hang up the ones that go together.

Sunday, July 14, 2019


If you’ve never made these, then today is the day!!! They are a hands-on way children can connect to abstract sounds and numbers and can be used in a multiple of ways.

Letter Pops

What? jumbo craft sticks, magnetic letters, E6000 glue (or similar craft glue)

Why? letter recognition, phonics, print knowledge

When? Large group, small group, independent

How? Glue the magnetic letters to the jumbo craft sticks.

*Children can use these to match letters on classroom print. They can also find objects in the room beginning with that sound.

*Let children hold up letter pops as you sing alphabet songs.

*Children can get together with friends and make words with their letter pops.

*Place the letter pops in a can in the classroom library. Children choose a letter and then match it up with that letter in a book.

*Play “Letter Pokey” which is similar to the “Hokey Pokey.”

*Match upper and lowercase letters.


Shape and Number Sticks

What? jumbo craft sticks, magnetic numbers and shapes, E6000 or similar glue.

Why? number and shape recognition, counting songs and finger plays

When? Large group or small group

How? Glue magnetic numbers and shapes to jumbo craft to use with the activities below.

*Pass out numeral sticks to children. Can they walk around the room and match up their numeral with classroom print?

*Can children get in order from 0-9?

*Ask children to walk around the room and find a number less than theirs. Can they find a number that’s greater? Can they find a number that’s the same?

*Let children hold up appropriate sticks as you sing or say rhymes.

*Call out a number. Students have to find a friend whose stick added to theirs makes the sum. Record the different combinations.

*Pass out shape sticks for children to match in the classroom. Are the shapes flat or solid?

You'll find dozens of fun strategies to help kids PLAY and LEARN letters in our new packet.

Saturday, July 13, 2019


Jumbo craft sticks fit my criteria of cheap, simple, and easy. They are inexpensive, virtually indestructible, and can be transformed into a game or management tool in five minutes. In a plastic/screen world, sticks provide a natural element and something children can hold in their hands.

Comprehension Sticks

What? jumbo craft sticks, markers, sock

Why? story elements, comprehension

When? Large group or small group

How? Write “Who?” “What?” “Where?” “When?” “Why?” on sticks and insert them in a sock. Throw the sock over your shoulder before reading a book to prompt the children to be active listeners. After reading the story, let children choose a stick and tell that part.

*You could also write “author, illustrator, title, beginning, middle, end” or “characters, setting, problem, resolution.”

Punctuation Sticks

Why? recognizing punctuation marks, reading with expression

When? Large group, partner reading

How? Draw a period, exclamation point, and question mark on the end of jumbo craft sticks. Children take turns choosing a stick and placing it at the end of a sentence as friends read with appropriate expression.

*Write simple sentences.  Place sticks at the end for the children to read.

*Can children read these with appropriate expressions? 

*Let children use the sticks as they read with a buddy.

Blending Sticks

Why? blending sounds, sound segmentation

When? Small group

How? Color 1/3 of the stick green, 1/3 yellow, and 1/3 red as shown. Call out sounds for children to touch. Have them blend the sounds as they sweep their finger from left to right and say the word.
     /c/ (touch green) /a/ (touch yellow) /t/ (touch red) = cat

     Where do you hear the /i/ in dig? (touch yellow)

     Where do you hear the /t/ in talk? (touch green)

Pick Me! 

Why? choosing random helpers

When? Large group

How? Color one end of a jumbo craft stick green and the other end red. Let each child write their name in the middle of the stick. Place the sticks in a cup with the green end on top. When there is a special job to be done, the teacher chooses a stick. After that child has had a turn, her stick goes back in the cup with the red end on top. When all the sticks are red on top and everyone has had a turn, flip them over and start again. 


Friday, July 12, 2019


This keyboard can be used to familiarize students with electronic devices that they will be using at school.

Note! Keyboards vary, so you use the one commonly found in your classroom for your template.

What? shower curtain liner, permanent marker, fly swatter

Why? letter recognition, names, sight words, sounds

When? Large group, small group, learning center, partner practice

How? There are two ways you can make this.

1. Cut the shower curtain liner in half and tape it horizontally to a wall. Place the attached pattern on a document camera and project on the shower curtain. Trace around the keys and letters with a permanent marker as shown.

2. Make a template for the keys. Starting in the middle of the shower curtain make 11 squares horizontally for the first row. Continue drawing off the rest of the keyboard. Write the letters and command keys as indicated.  (I made mine on our kitchen island and it was easy to draw that way.)

Hint! Use one color to outline the keys and a different color to write the letters.

Cut the shape of a mitten out of the fly swatter.

*Place the giant keyboard on the floor or on a bulletin board and let the children use it to practice identifying letters.

*Call out a sound and have children tap the letter that makes that sound.

*Have children type out names, sight words, or spelling words.

*For a partner activity, have one child hold a word and check while their partner types it.

Personal Device

Pocket folders are on sale now, so with a little bit glue and a keyboard pattern can make a “personal device” for each student that they will be able to use all year long.

What? pocket folder, keyboard pattern, glue, index cards, marker

Why? names, sight words, letter recognition, vocabulary words

When? large group, small group, learning center, independent practice

How? Glue the keyboard pattern to the right inside pocket of the folder as shown. Let children decorate the outside with markers. Write names, sight words, letters, and other information you want the children to practice on index cards. Place in the left pocket. Children choose a card and put it on the top of their “screen.” After they type the information they save it in the pocket on the right.

*Ask children to write the letter or word after they’ve typed it.

Here's a link to the keyboard that I used:

Have you checked out the new project that Carolyn Kisloski and I created?

Thursday, July 11, 2019


These cards can be used in a variety of ways to practice information with silly voices. 

What? copies of fluency cards, heavy paper, scissors, small box (such as an individual cereal box)

Why? nursery rhymes, sight words, group reading, math facts, counting

When? large group or small group

How? Run off copies of the fluency cards on heavy paper. Cut apart and place in the box. Choose several children to pick a “voice.” Use that “voice” to say rhymes, count, read over the word wall, and so forth.

Here are a few examples of different ways you can repeat information.

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?

Extend arms and sing words dramatically.

Let children come up with their own creative voices.

You can 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.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Here’s another game with built in feedback. Children can use these “brains" over and over and you’ll make sure they are learning the correct information.

What? poster board, hole punch, marker, scissors, golf tee or pencil

Why? math facts, phonics, antonyms, sets and numbers

When? learning center, independent, with a partner

How? Cut brains out of poster board using the pattern. Punch about 10 holes around the outside edge as shown. Write a math fact by each hole on the front and the answer by the hole in the back. Children put the golf tee in the hole and say the answer to the math fact, and then they turn the brain over and check their answer on the back.
*Two children can also play this game. One “pokes” and the other confirms.

What? paper plates or heavy paper, markers, scissors, zip bag

Why? rhyming words, compounds, math concepts, blends, second language, etc.

How? Cut paper plates in half or thirds with a puzzle design.  Put rhyming pictures, upper and lowercase letters, numbers and amounts, etc. on the puzzle pieces. The game is self-checking because the pieces will fit if they match the correct pictures. 

*Use hearts, kites, pumpkins, or other seasonal shapes to make puzzlers.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019


If you don’t know the story of SCAT THE CAT, I think it is a MUST for early childhood teachers. It has a very special message for the children at the beginning of the school year.

What? file folder, scissors, construction paper (2 black, 1 blue, 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 green)

Why? rhyme, colors, sequence, self-esteem

When? large group

How? Use the cat pattern to cut a cat shape from the front of the file folder. Cut construction paper into 8” x 10” rectangles and insert inside the file folder in this order: black, blue, red, yellow, green, black. Tape the sides of the file folder and decorate the front with markers if you desire.

Hint! Glue the words of the story below to the back of the file folder to help you tell it.

Once there was a little black cat. (Hold up the file folder showing the black cat.) He was a magic cat because he could change his colors (snap fingers) just like that. All he had to say was:
     I’m Scat the Cat. (Children join in on the chorus.)
     I’m sassy and fat.
     And I can change my colors
     Just like that! (Snap fingers.)

One day Scat decided he was tired of being black. He wanted to be a new color so he said: CHORUS. (Remove the black sheet of paper to make the cat blue.) And he changed blue! Scat went down to the pond to look at himself in the water. Unfortunately, he fell in and he couldn’t swim. Timmy Turtle came along and helped Scat get back on shore.

Scat decided he didn’t want to be blue any more, so he said: CHORUS. (Remove the blue sheet of paper to make the cat red.) And he changed red. He went walking down the street and everybody started laughing at him. “Whoever heard of a red cat!” they said.

Scat decided he didn’t want to be red any more, so he said: CHORUS. (Remove the red sheet of paper to make the cat yellow.) And he changed yellow. Scat went walking in the woods and who did he run into but his cousin Leo the lion. “Grrrrrr!” roared Leo. “I’m the only cat who can be yellow.”

Scat decided he better not be yellow any more and he quickly said: CHORUS. (Remove the yellow sheet of paper to make the cat green.) Scat wanted to play with his brothers and sisters in the grass. He tried to play with them, but he was green like the grass and they couldn’t see him.

Scat decided he didn’t want to be blue, or red, or yellow, or green, so he said: CHORUS. (Remove the green sheet of paper to make the cat black.) Scat knew that being himself was the best thing to be. And do you know what? Being yourself is the best thing you can be, too. Because there’s nobody else exactly like you. And I like you just the way you are!

*Encourage the children to identify the rhyming words in the story.
*Have children discuss what makes them unique and special.
*Review the sequence of the story. Make a story bracelet by adding colored beads to the pipe cleaner as the children retell the story.

*Make felt cats and place in storytelling center with a flannel board so children can practice telling the story.

Monday, July 8, 2019


How about a song today? Children will love to get up in front of their friends and take turns “performing” this song.

What? construction paper, scissors, markers

Why? counting, one-to-one matching, subtracting, combinations for five, money

When? large group

How? Cut 5 bears out of construction paper (red, orange, green, yellow, and purple) using the pattern. Cut five pennies out of orange construction paper or fun foam. Choose five children to come to the front of the room and hold the bears. Pass out pennies to five other children. Invite the rest of the class to hold up five fingers as you sing this song to the tune of “Five Little Ducks.”

     Down at the candy shop what did I see?
     Five little gummy bears smiling at me.
     Along came (child’s name) with a penny one day.
     He/she bought the green one and took it away.

     Down at the candy shop what did I see?
     Four little gummy bears smiling at me.
     Along came (child's name) with a penny one day.
     He/she bought the red one and took it away.

Continue singing as children buy the other colors.

Here's a video K.J. and Kalina made a few years ago:


More? Change the number of bears in the song.
Use nickels, dimes, or quarters.
Pumpkins, valentines, and other seasonal items can be used in place of the bears. For example, in October you could sing:

     Down at the pumpkin patch what did I see?
     10 orange pumpkins round as can be.
     Along came (child’s name) with a dollar one day
     She bought a pumpkin and she took it away.

Sunday, July 7, 2019


Your class will get a kick out of barking like a dog with this game!

What? cardstock or poster board, scissors, markers, empty dog biscuit box or plastic dog dish

Why? letters, sight words, phrase cards, numbers, math facts

When? small group or learning center

How? Cut out dog bones and write sight words, math facts, letters, etc. on them. On a few write “Woof! Woof!” Pass the box around and let each child pull out a bone and identify the information. If they select “Woof! Woof!” they have to get down on the floor on all fours and bark like a dog. (They love it!)

Who Let the Letters Out?
Place letters in a dog dish or empty box of dog biscuits. Children reach in
and pull out one letter at a time as you chant:
     Who let the D out?
     /d/ /d/ /d/ /d/ /d/


Saturday, July 6, 2019


Self-check games where children get immediate feedback are a great way to reinforce skills. We want children to practice, but we also want to make sure the correct information is getting stored in the brain.

What? construction paper, markers, scissors

Why? words and pictures, upper and lowercase letters, antonyms, math facts and answers, etc.

When? Learning center, independent practice, take home game

How? Cut puppies out of construction paper. Bend down the ear. Write one thing on the puppy’s body and write the answer under the ear.

*These puppies are great for second languages.

Hint! Old workbooks are good for making phonics and math games where you need pictures of different objects and amounts.

Here's a similar self-check game you can make with sharks.


Friday, July 5, 2019


You can call this worm Willy or Wanda or Wilbur or Winnie, but whatever you name it your kids will call it FUN! It's simple to make and can be adapted for many different skills.

What? paper plates, markers, construction paper, scissors, glue

Why? letters, numbers, sight words, shapes, etc.

When? large group

How? Decorate one plate to look like a silly worm. On the other plates write letters with a marker. Place the worm’s head down on the floor. Pass a plate to each child.  (You can do this in alphabetical order or randomly.)  The first child comes up, puts her plate next to the worm’s head and says the letter. The second child says the letter on the first plate and then says her letter and adds it to the worm’s body. The game continues as children say previous letters and then add their letter to the worm.

More? Challenge children to add the letters in alphabetical order.

Sight words – Write sight words on plates and add to the worm as children read the words.


Numbers – Write numbers on the plates and put in order.

Second Language – Write words from a second language you want the children to learn.  You could put English on the front and the translation on the back.


Musical Plates 
Scatter the plates on the floor. Play some catchy music for the children to dance to. When the music stops each child finds a paper plate and picks it up. The teacher randomly points to various children to identify the information on their plate. Put the plates back down on the floor and continue dancing and picking up plates.

Thursday, July 4, 2019


Happy Birthday, America!

To celebrate our country's birthday I'm giving you FREE registration to my upcoming workshop. No joke! It's a DIY (Do It Yourself) make and take workshop. If you don't have the time or money to go to a conference, this is for YOU! Every day the rest of July I'll have something that you can make make to start your school year. You know all of those things you want to do during the school year, but you just can’t find the time? Well, get out your scissors and construction paper and we’re going to have some fun!!!

What will each day bring? Maybe a game or a learning center? Maybe a story or something for classroom management? You’ll just have to join me each day on my blog. I can guarantee you that it will be simple and inexpensive to make and that your kids will LOVE it! You might be surprised how these basic tools can be adapted different age levels, skills, and content. (Yes, primary grade students are still little kids and will like these materials just as much as kinders!)

You know how I always talk about PLAIN VANILLA? Children don’t care about polka dots and glitter and fancy stuff. They are happy with something simple. And, you want to know why? Because YOU add the magic to anything! Your enthusiasm and positive attitude will be contagious and your kids will reflect it when you introduce these games, stories, and learning activities.

Why games are important?

A teacher told me that her administrator told her not to play games because they were a waste of time! And that’s why I have to start by talking about WHY games are important. All you have to say is, “Let’s play a game!” and you will naturally engage your students. But there’s more than PLAY going on with these games!

Standards– Sugar coat those standards by developing a game around the skills you want to reinforce.

Executive Function – Through games children can develop task initiation and completion because there is a beginning and an end. They also learn self- regulation and delayed gratification.

Active Learning– With games children can talk, interact with friends, and use multi-sensory materials.

Purposeful Practice for Automaticity– In order to master skills children need to repeat and practice them. Clearly, kids would rather do that with a game than with a worksheet.

Intentional Teaching– Teachers can create flashcard games, board games, or a variety of games based on any skill (letters, numbers, sight words, vocabulary, math facts, science or social studies, etc.) Think about skills in your curriculum and there’s the content for your game.

21st Century Skills – Children will naturally develop cooperation, collaboration, and communication as they share and play games.

Brain Research– The brain likes anything that is novel and challenging. Games add that element of fun and motivation to academic content.

Differentiated Instruction– Games can be adapted for specific needs and used for small group, independent, or take home practice.

Limited English Learners
– Games can provide that visual and auditory connection in a non-threatening way.

Instructional Time
– Take advantage of transitions and those few extra minutes during the school day by playing games.