Thursday, September 19, 2019


Here's an idea for active learning that will involve families and encourage children to read, read, read. You can buy these or just start simple by creating two book bags. You could rotate these through your class for a month so each child would have two turns with different books and animals. Children will anticipate "their turn" and taking the bag home.

Directions: Place a book and coordinating toy in each bag. Add blank paper, crayons, and a pencil. Rotate allowing children to take home “book buddy” bags. Remind them to do each of the activities below before returning the book bag to school.

     1. Read the book to yourself.

     2. Read the book to your book buddy (stuffed animal).

     3. Read the book in the mirror.

     4. Read the book to someone in your family.

     5. Read the book one more time to your pet, a toy, or something else.

     6. Draw a picture of your favorite part of the story.

When children return the book bag to school, invite them to sit in the “teacher’s chair” or "reader's chair" and read a few pages to their classmates.


Put a stuffed bear (or other animal), spiral notebook, and pencil in a backpack. Choose a different child to take home the backpack each evening. The child writes or dictates a story to their parents about the bear.
*Just for fun add a toothbrush, pajamas, and other items for the bear.

Here is a letter for parents that you can adapt to reinforce the important role that they play in helping their children learn to read.

Dear Parents,

You’ve heard it before, and I’ll say it again.  You are your child’s first and most important teacher!  The best way to help your child learn to read is to read, read, read!

  1. Model reading in front of your child.  Read directions on recipes, the newspaper, labels on clothing, and street signs.  Show your child the importance of reading, and also the pleasure we can get from reading.
  2. Set aside a special time each day to read with your child.  It might be right before bed, or you could wake your child up each morning with a story.
  3. Point your finger under the words as you read them.
  4. Talk about the title of the book, the author, illustrator, etc.  What is the setting?  Who are the characters?  Could this really happen or is it just pretend? 
  5. Take your child to the library.  Help your child get her own library card and take responsibility for books.
  6. Create a special basket or shelf in your home where you keep books and magazines for your child to read.  You might also want to keep a backpack filled with books in your car.
Happy reading!


Several years ago I met Dave and his friend Biddy.  What a special way to help children and their parents enjoy a bedtime story and spend quality time together.  They've just launched a new podcast so check it out.

Parents and educators, does a day go by where you don’t need a break? Well, ‘Biddy the Duck’ and her friends would like say “hello”. Our story-time podcast “Biddy Stories” is filled with fun characters, exciting laughs, and a sense of humor that is perfect for those who are young and young at heart.  It’s certainly the most unique children’s podcast on iTunes! 

Look for "Biddy Stories" on iTunes today! You'll be so glad you did. 

Facebook: Biddy Stories
Instagram: Biddy Stories
Twitter: @Biddytheduck

Wednesday, September 18, 2019


Every year around this time I hear horror stories about primary grade children having several hours of homework each evening. The child ends up crying - the parents end up yelling – what’s the point?

First of all, if a young child goes to school and sits and listens and works and learns for six hours, they deserve to do what they want when they get home. The need to play, move, laugh, yell, imagine, and be KIDS!

Homework should teach children responsibility. Homework should be a tool to help parents see what their child is doing at school. Homework should extend learning from the classroom to the home. Homework should be MEANINGFUL!

If I were in charge of the world, primary grade children would NOT be allowed to spend more than 30 minutes on homework each night. They might be asked to read 20+ minutes and then have ONE other assignment. I would try to make the assignment engage with the parent and connect the real world with what’s going on in the classroom. For example, the assignment might be to ask their parents what a veteran is and to find out who the veterans in their family are. The assignment might be to ask their parents how they use math in their jobs. The assignment might be to cut out a picture from the newspaper and write one or two sentences about it. Drill and kill worksheets should be banned!

My daughter brought up the point that many parents WANT homework and are impressed with lengthy assignments because they think it will make their children smarter. In the book Battle Over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators,Teachers, and Parents, Harris Cooper put together a variety of research studies on homework. He found that in elementary school, homework has almost no impact on academic achievement. In middle school, the results are mixed. In high school, moderate levels of homework can help the learning process.

Here are some ideas that might encourage children to develop responsibility and positive attitudes about homework.

Tic Tac Toe Homework

Make a tic-tac-toe grid and put a different assignment in each section. Children can do as many activities as they choose, but they must do at least 3 to get tic-tac-toe by the end of the week.
Hint! This is perfect for the parents and children who actually “like” homework because they can do all nine.

Homework Folders 
You will need a pocket folder, crayons, and markers to make a homework folder. First, let children decorate the outside of their folders. Trace around their “left” hand on the left pocket. At the end of each day children put completed work in that pocket and it is “left” at home. Trace around their “right” hand on the right pocket. Use a homework sheet similar to the one below. Fill out assignments for the whole week and place it in the “right” hand side of the child’s folder on Monday. On Friday save homework sheets in children’s folders. Review with parents at conferences.

Weekly Homework Sheet

Monday ________________ Tuesday ______________

_______________________ ______________________

_______________________ ______________________

Parent Signature/Comments Parent Signature/Comments

_______________________ ______________________

Wednesday_____________ Thursday_______________ 

_______________________ ______________________

_______________________ ______________________

Parent Signature/Comments Parent Signature/Comments

_______________________ ______________________

Clipboard Homework
Each child will need a clipboard that she can decorate with her name, stickers, etc. Each night clip the homework assignment to children’s clipboards. (Think outside the box with interactive activities, rather than worksheets!) Make sure parents know that their job is to look at the clipboard each night, help their child with the assignment, and send it back to school the next day. 


Monthly Calendar
Send a calendar home at the beginning of each month and ask parents to complete at least ten activities and return by the end of the month.
Note!  You can download these free on my website


Tuesday, September 17, 2019


I was thrilled when Kim Post of Funky Feet Music agreed to be a guest blogger. I think that dancing with play dough is the most fun and creative activity I've seen in a long time!

‘Play Dough Dancing’ is a FUN activity which combines the use of play dough with a series of finger movements designed to improve fine muscle control, hand-eye coordination and sense of timing and great fun. Overall aim is to ultimately support children’s handwriting skills. Why not make your own dough and add your favourite scent to it? (always check for allergies, play dough can contain wheat)

Try ‘Play Dough Dancing’ as part of a regular routine, warming up those important areas in our hands and fingers in preparation for mark making and writing. Each child has their own ball of play dough then pop on some music with a steady beat. Demonstrate various ways to manipulate the play dough and have the children copy you and come up with their own ideas. Give your children as many opportunities as you can to exercise those important muscles. Bring in some directional and positional language by combining hand movements with leg movements: passing the dough under, over, round and through. Make if more challenging by crossing midlines and moving the dough using a figure of 8 through the legs

To see dough dancing in action, Check out Funky feet music channel on youtube Or

Play Dough Dancing Exercises

Splat it:- Using the palm of your hands, flatten the dough like a pancake, whilst the children learn to apply pressure Splatting allows the children to practice bilateral coordination and independent movement (one hand stays still, the other moves, these skills are needed to control a pencil too).

Pinch it:- Holding the dough still in one hand, pinch it between fingers and thumb. Try different combinations to build strength in the ends of the fingers. (Also stimulating the senses with fingertips being a very sensory part of the body)

Squeeze it:- With the dough in one hand squeeze hard. See if children and squeeze so hard the dough comes through their knuckles building strength in the hands.

Roll it:- Rolling round and round to make a football (Soccer) or using flat palms roll the dough between both hands forming a sausage shape. Then apply pressure to turn it into a wriggly worm. Use positional language and ask the children to move their hand forwards and backwards.

Plunge in:-Plunge each individual finger into a ball of dough. Use terminology, Tommy Thumb, Peter Pointer, Toby Tall, Ruby Ring, Baby Small, Fingers All.

Pass from hand to hand, around their backs, figure of 8 through their legs and swap dough with a partner. It all helps with hand-eye coordination and social skills.


Contact Kim Post at for more information.

Monday, September 16, 2019



So I guess that means playing with play dough makes kids smarter!

September 16th is National Play Dough Day, but I think every day should be a play dough day in early childhood. Play dough is multi-sensory, engaging, creative, and open-ended.  Play dough can be a tool just like a worksheet, video game, or PPT.  Play dough also develops small motor skills which help children write.  Here are just a few ways to integrate play dough into centers and independent learning in your classroom. 

Let children make their favorite character and use it to retell a story.

Draw a scene from a story and add details with play dough.

Make something that you learned from the book.

Rhymes – Make two objects that rhyme. 


Sounds – Make objects that start with a consonant, blend, or diagraph you are working on. 

Vowels- Make an object for a long vowel sound and short vowel sound. 

Make something you like (or don’t like) and write about it.

Make something from a book you have read and write about it.

Make letter plates by writing letters with a permanent marker on plastic plates. Children roll play dough and make the letters on top.

Make letters (or words) using a bubble font. Children roll dough and fill in.

Make something that is a noun. How can you make it plural?

Make objects that match numbers. 


Make a set and then decompose it. 

Demonstrate more, less, and equal. 

Make lines, curves, and shapes. 

Science and Social Studies
Reinforce information from a science or social studies unit with play dough. Children could make animals from a habitat, parts of a flower, tools of community helpers, healthy foods…endless possibilities! 

Silly Putty
Here’s another idea a second grade teacher shared for keeping those fingers busy! She asks each parent to provide a container of silly putty that the children keep in their pencil box. If they finish their work early, they use the silly putty to create something that relates to a reading skill, math concept, science unit, etc. 

Sunday, September 15, 2019


Gratitude is an emotion of expressing appreciation for what you have, rather than what you don’t have. Psychology Today reports that gratitude can be cultivated and it can increase levels of happiness when you do. Energy, optimism, and empathy are by-products of gratitude.  World Gratitude Day is September 21st, so integrate these activities into your lesson plans this week.

P.S.  Have I told you lately that I'M GRATEFUL FOR YOU!!!  Thanks for reading my blog!

Model Gratitude
Make it a habit to include things you appreciate into daily conversations.

What does it mean to be thankful?  Write children’s responses on the board.  What are some synonyms for thankful?


Children love to make lists, so let them make a list (draw pictures or write) of all the things they are grateful for.

Can they think of something for each letter of the alphabet that they are grateful for?


Gratitude Journal
Let children make a special "gratitude journal."  Encourage them to write what they are grateful for each day for a week.

Gratitude Box
Cut a hole in the top of a shoebox and decorate.  Place on a shelf along with paper and pencils.  Children can write things they are grateful for and place them in the box.  Read the notes at the end of the day before children go home.

Grateful Greeting
Start the day by going around the room and asking each child to say something they are grateful for.

End with Something GOOD
End the day by having children say something good that happened at school that day.

Hot Potato Pass
Children sit or stand in a circle and begin passing the hot potato (ball or other small object)  around.  When the music stops or when the teacher blows a whistle the child holding the potato must say one thing they are grateful for.

Saturday, September 14, 2019


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).

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.


Friday, September 13, 2019


If you missed my FB Live video on 
yesterday here's a link so you can catch it this weekend.

Ready or not, it will be time for parent conferences before you know it!  I used to dread conferences because many of the parents didn’t want to talk about their child. They wanted to talk about the neighbor’s kid or their “ex” or whatever. Once I started using this questionnaire my conferences became much more meaningful for me and for the parents.

A week before conferences I’d ask the children, “Would you like me to give your parents some homework? Well, here is something they need to fill out and bring to our conference next week.”

Note! If parents show up without the form, simply smile and say, “I’ll give you a few minutes to fill this out before we get started.”

                                  CONFERENCE QUESTIONNAIRE

Please fill out this form and bring it to your conference on __________________at _________________.

Child’s name__________________________

1. My child’s favorite activity at school is________________

2. My child expresses concern about_____________________

3. My child’s strong qualities are__________________________

4. Areas I feel my child needs to work on are_____________

5. Something I would like to see my child do at school is _______

6. Is there any special information about your child that you think we should know about?


Cheers and Goals
Here’s another idea for conference time. Ask parents to write down three things positive (cheers) about their child and three goals that they have for their child. This will give the teacher insight as to what is important to parents. It will also provide the teacher with the opportunity to say, “This is what I can do at school to help your child accomplish these goals. What can you do to help at home?”

Student Led Conferences
I must admit I never did these, but many schools are now using this approach and find if very successful. You can find videos and other useful information about student led conferences on the internet.

Conference Tips
Sit beside the parent at a table, rather than behind a desk.

Keep the conversation focused on the child.

Have samples of the child’s work to share with the parents. Focus on the total child, including intellectual, physical, social, and emotional development.

If there is a problem, brainstorm solutions and develop a plan for action.

End the conference on a positive note by reassuring the parents and thanking them for their support.

Provide an interpreter for parents who do not speak English.

Follow-up with the parents after the conference.

Thursday, September 12, 2019



There are many ways that parents can participate and contribute to their child’s education. A good place to start would be an interest inventory where parents have the opportunity to discuss their experiences, hobbies, and talents.

Here are other some suggestions for a check list where parents could check off how they will support your program:

Attend meetings and conferences.
Chaperone field trips.
Make phone calls or send emails.
Plan parties.
Collect free items for projects. Participate in recycling programs.
Make games and materials for the classroom.
Assist with technology for the classroom.
Plan service projects and fund raisers.
Share their culture, trips, career, or a hobby with the children.
Volunteer to tell stories, assist with learning centers, help with a project.
Tutor children.
Participate in clean-up days or repair broken equipment.
Compile a class scrapbook or video.
Advocacy for legislation that supports children and education.

Brown Bag Special
This is perfect for the working parent. Put materials for making games, art projects, etc. in a brown grocery sack. Children get to deliver the “brown bag special” to their parents to complete at home. They will be so proud to return the bag knowing that their parent is involved in their classroom!


Hint! For parents with computer access and financial resources, ask them to download books and free materials from the internet. For other parents, you could put in paper and a pattern for them to cut out for a class game. Everybody can do something and everybody needs to feel appreciated for their efforts!

Helping Hands
Cut out paper hands and write different items you would like for your classroom, such as paper lunch bags, tissues, plastic bags, etc. (You know all those things you have to buy with your own money! Materials could range from something inexpensive to a Dust Buster or old rocking chair.) Tape these to your door and “invite” parents who would like to 
help to choose a hand and purchase those items. 

Name Notes
Give each child a 4" square and ask them to draw their picture and write their name. Reduce the size and glue to half a sheet of paper or around a full sheet as shown. Make many, many copies and use for notes to parents or place in the writing center for the children to use.


Wednesday, September 11, 2019


In Amanda Ripley’s book THE SMARTEST KIDS IN THE WORLD, one of the most interesting findings was that what parents did at home mattered significantly. Reading to children and talking about school was very important. Parents showed their children they valued education by asking about school, what they learned, what they liked, etc. Parents who modeled reading also had a positive impact.

Here are a few tips to encourage parents to communicate with their children about school.

Make daily journals for students by putting white paper in a pocket folder. At the end of each day students draw what they learned and dictate or write a sentence to go with their drawing. The journal goes home each evening so children can discuss what they did at school with their parents. The parents sign the journal, write comments or compliments, and return it the following day.

Conversation Starters
Make copies of the attached conversations starters. (Adapt them to your age level and curriculum.) Cut them apart and put them in a bag. Children draw one as they leave at the end of the day and give it to their parents to prompt a discussion about what they did.

Hint! One school suggested that parents "turn it off" in the car when they picked up their child. The quiet time might encourage children to talk about school because they'd know they had their parent's undivided attention.

Screen Time Survey
Ask parents to keep a log of how much time their child spends in front of a screen for a week. The following week ask them to “turn it off” and spend an equal amount of time reading, playing games, doing chores around the house, etc. with their child.

Brain Tickets
Run off brain tickets similar to the ones below. To earn a brain ticket children need to tell the teacher one new thing they learned at the end of each day. Explain to the parents that their job is to ask their child what she learned to earn the ticket. 


Laptops for Every Child
A teacher explained at her first parents’ meeting that she recommended that every child needed at least one laptop – two if possible. It’s not the kind of laptop that you plug in, but the kind with two knees. This laptop is perfect for reading, talking, hugging, and singing!


When most teachers are asked what they look for in good students, they will respond, “I want students who can listen and follow directions.”  As children spend more time in front of a screen, it’s important to slow down at the beginning of the school year to develop positive listening skills.

Turn it off! Turn off the big screen and get down at the children’s eye level and look at them.

Engage them! Get their attention with a finger play or a cheer.
*Teacher: Hocus pocus. (Pretend to wave a magic wand.)
Children: Everybody focus. (Children make imaginary goggles and put them around their eyes.)

Wait. Sit quietly and smile and wait.
*Close your eyes and pretend to wave a magic wand. Say, “Abracadabra. I will open my eyes when all my friends are sitting quietly.”

Lower your voice. By simply talking slowly with a quiet voice you will remind the children that it’s time to listen.
*Lip sinc a song or finger play like “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Anything different or original will give children “pause.”

Busy Hands - Give them something to do with their hands. Demonstrate how to cross your fingers and put your “listening hands” in your lap.

Pretzels and Applesauce – If children are sitting on their bottoms they will be less likely to squirm around. Remind them that their legs should look like pretzels and they should make a bowl of applesauce with their hands.

Hint! I explain that the doctor said it’s important to sit with their legs like pretzels. If the “doctor says” they are more likely to respond. (This is true because orthopedists warn sitting on the knees can be harmful.)

Body Check. Remind children to listen with their eyes, ears, and bodies.
*Teacher: Are your eyes looking at me?
Children: Check!
Teacher: Are your ears ready to listen?
Children: Check!
Teacher: Are your bodies sitting quietly?
Children: Check!
Teacher: Are you ready to learn?
Children: Check!

Breath – Tell children to slowly breath in and out their noses. It’s surprising how this will calm them – and they won’t be able to talk!

Signs - Run off a copy of a giant ear and tape it to a stick. When you hold up the ear children know they need to listen with big ears!

Repeat - Practice giving directions ONE time. Invite another student to repeat what you have said.

Close Your Eyes – Have children close their eyes as you give directions. Who can open their eyes and repeat what you said?

*Occasionally, have children close their eyes when you read a story. Can they make pictures in their brain?
*Invite children to sing songs or say nursery rhymes with their eyes closed.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


I wonder if teachers realize how “yelling” or using a harsh voice really impacts students?  You could technically be a master teacher, but if you “yell” it certainly chips away at the positive image. Kids often evaluate teachers by saying, “He never yells,” or “She yells all the time.” 

If You’re Ready to Get Started (Leigh Ann Towater)
(Tune: “If You’re Happy and You Know It”)
If you’re ready to get started say, I AM! (Children say, “I am!”)
If you’re ready to get started say, I AM! (Children say, “I am!”)
If you say that you’re not,
You’re going to miss a lot.
If you’re ready to get started say, I AM! (Children say, “I am!)

Echo Chant (Martha Edwards)
1, 2 (Students repeat each line.)
3, 4
We’re not talking.
5, 6
7, 8
Standing quietly (or lining up or sitting down, etc.)
Would be great.
9, 10
Let’s begin!
Student Heroes
5-4-3-2-1-zero (Hold up hand and put down one finger at a time.)
I’m looking for my
student heroes. (Make goggles with thumbs and fingers and place around eyes like glasses.)

*Call the names of children who are sitting quietly.

Henry Hush 
(Hold up your index finger as you sing this song to the tune of “London Bridge.”)
Henry Hush says,
“Please be quiet.” (Pretend index finger is Henry.)
“Please be quiet.”
“Please be quiet.”
Henry Hush says, “Please be quiet.”
Shh! Shh! Shh! (Finger on lips as you lower your voice.)

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

Continue lowering your voice until children are focused on you.

I am looking.
What do I see?
I see (student, class) sitting (standing, whatever you need)

Hint! Lower your voice each time you say this until children are quiet.

Volume Control
Some children have a difficult time monitoring their voice level.  How about having a picture of a lion, a mouse, and a child? When they can talk in a regular voice put up the child. When you want them to use a whisper voice post the mouse, and when they can use a loud voice (like when they go outside) put up the lion.

Songs, Chants, Poems- Practice singing songs or saying rhymes with a “lion,” “mouse,” or “normal” voice. 

Monday, September 9, 2019


Here are a few "tricks" to keep up your sleeve to help with classroom management.

Behavior Cue Cards
These cards can be download free at They are a great way to reinforce verbal directions or quietly redirect a student.


Sitter Spot 

Cut circles out of fun foam or felt and write children’s names on them. Place these in a circle and have the children find the “sitter spot” with their name.
*This is a good technique to separate children who might cause trouble!

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


Happy Chappy
You will need some lip balm with a fragrance. Gently rub children’s right hand with a “happy chappy” when they are following directions.


You Knock My Socks Off!
You will need an old pair of socks, a stick, and a piece of string 18” long for this project. Tie a sock to each end of the string. Tie the middle of the string to the stick. When children do something outstanding, take the stick and wave it in the air as you say, “You knock my socks off!”

Mr. Good for You!
A cloth glove, markers, fiberfill, and pipe cleaner are all you need to make a “good for you hand.” First, draw a happy face on one side of the glove with the markers. Fill the glove tightly with fiberfill or another stuffing. Gather the bottom of the glove and secure with a pipe cleaner. Children get “Mr. Good for You” and pat themselves on the back when they accomplish a new task.


Magic Lotion
Take an empty pump dispenser of hand lotion and remove the label. Make a new label for the lotion that says, “Mr./Mrs. (your name)’s Magic Lotion” and tape it to the bottle. When children are upset, frustrated, get a boo boo, or have hurt feelings, give them a “squirt” of magic lotion.