Thursday, July 2, 2020



Some of you just finished the school year and some of you will be starting in a few weeks. One thing for sure is that it will be DIFFERENT! I’ve decided to focus my blogs this month on simple materials that can be used in multiple ways that engage multiple senses. (NO TAP AND SWIPE FROM THIS OLD TEACHER! I mean, that’s O.K., but we need to balance it with hands-on experiences!)

If I were in charge of the world, every child would have a whiteboard for an online or traditional classroom.  Whiteboards encourage each child to respond and they are reusable.  Think of all the trees we can safe with whiteboards!

Individual whiteboards (or wipe off boards) and markers can purchased many different places. (I got my whiteboard and a pack of colored dry erase markers at Walmart for less than the cost of a latte.)  Add a butterfly clip at the top and it will double as a clipboard.


Many lumber companies will cut shower board into 9” x 12” pieces that you can use like whiteboards.

Plastic plates or laminated white card stock are also great substitutes for white boards.

Several weeks ago I asked teachers on Facebook to suggest ways they used whiteboards. Their responses were so creative I wanted all of you to be able to use them.

My Kinders LOVED the “Show Me” game. They would write the response to my question (keeping it a secret by not showing anyone). When I said “show me” everyone held up their board. We celebrate trying our best- they then check my screen to see if they have it- if not we fix it. Of course, we read/review together. It all happens fairly quickly. I began by randomly calling out letters for them to write. We then moved on to letters to go with a sound, sight words, numbers, etc. Total engagement and a crowd pleaser. Everyone feels successful.

Draw one detail of a picture at a time and see if the kids can guess what it is. Keep adding details until they figure it out. You can also give them their own white board and they could draw along with you. They could also draw their own picture and have others guess. We liked to do this activity while waiting on lunch to arrive.

I used a white board with the musical chairs game. Every time the music stopped we would sit and complete one part of a directed drawing. Great fun, movement, and working those fine motor skills.

I use white boards for guided drawings (something about them being non-permanent builds their confidence), interactive read-aloud responses, and for fine motor/writing center. My kids LOVE them and anytime I say we are going to get them to begin our work they all get excited!

Kindergarteners totally buy into anything if you say “we are going to play a game”. Play a game of secret letter. Give clues about the secret letter. The clues could be naming objects that start with this letter or end with this letter. You could give clues such as “it is the letter before m”. As you give clues the students are guessing on their whiteboards. Finally the students show their guesses.

Show them a math problem and they have to complete the calculation correctly on their whiteboards.

For white boards, I went to Home Depot and bought a piece of shower board. Home Depot cut it for me into squares and I came out with over 40 dry erase boards for $24!! And if you tell them you're a teacher, you might get lucky and they'll cut it for you for free. I'm sure Lowe's could do this too

Use whiteboards to help children practice skills and settle down in the morning. They can practice drawing shapes, letters, or numerals.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020


                              Watch new Ready, Set, Go! Video

Teachers are like sales people. We SELL kids on reading, taking turns, doing their work, and so forth. There are going to be many different ways that schools operate, but we need to be as positive and resilient as we can with whatever happens.

Here's a chant that my granddaughter helped me write and record. After visiting many online classes this spring it was obvious that children (and parents) didn't know appropriate behavior. (Laying in bed with your pajamas and a sippy cup is no way to learn.) My underlying message was basically what we expect in the traditional or virtual classroom.

     1. School is FUN.

     2. You need to be prepared.

     3. You'll have friends.

     4. You need to sit up and be attentive.

     5. You're going to learn lots of new things.

By Dr. Jean and Kalina Karapetkova

We like to come to virtual school. (Slap thighs and step from side to side.)
Learning from home is really cool.

Gather all the supplies you need.
Are you ready? Yes, indeed!

Come on in and wave hello.
Smile to all the friends you know.

Sit up straight in your chair.
Show your teacher that you care.

When you talk, please take turns.
Look, listen, and you will learn.

Reading, writing, we are smart!
Math and science, music and art.

We share, sing, and have a great time.
When we go to school online.

Here's a book that Toni Mullins (Teacher Toni) made to go with 
the chant.  You can download it at


Note!  Downloaded books will last much longer if you glue the first page to a pocket folder and then insert the other pages in clear sheet protectors.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020


Are you excited? I am!! Baseball season starts tomorrow and I am ready to root, root, root!

Take Me Out to the Ball Game
Take me out to the ball game. (Hand in fist as if cheering.)
Take me out to the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts (Hold up one palm and then other.)
and Cracker Jacks.
I don’t care if we never get back, (Shake head “no.”)
For I’ll root, root, root for the home team. (Cheer with hand in the air.)
If they don’t win it’s a shame. (Open up palms and shake head.)
For it’s one, two, three strikes (Hold up fingers as you count.)
You’re out! (Stick up thumb like “out.”)
At the old ball game.


Cracker Jacks Book
Cut the front and back off a bag or box of Cracker Jacks. Cut paper the size of the bag and staple it inside to make a book.  Let children draw and write prizes they would like to find in a box of Cracker Jacks.

Here's a simple visor that you can wear to the game. Cut a moon shape out of a paper plate and let the children decorate it with markers and crayons. Punch holes in the ends and tie on strings so you can fit the visor to children's heads.


Monday, June 29, 2020


I'm almost out of ideas and I'm almost "out of June"!  But don't worry because I've got other surprises for you in July.

Rhyming Chant
(Tina Ponzi)
(Slap knees and clap hands to get the rhythm.)
When I say bat, you say cat.
Bat – cat
Bat – cat

*You can also use this chant for opposites.
When I say hot, you say cold.
Hot – cold
Hot – cold

This would be a great way to develop phonological awareness and oral language online.

Read with Me If… (Betsy Martin)
This idea makes it seem like the students are special and they “get” to read with the teacher!
Read with me IF you…like chocolate ice cream
     like broccoli
     like to play outside
     have brown eyes
     are wearing blue
What a great way to encourage children to listen and reread big books.

State Song (Jodie Slusher)
(Tune: “Farmer in the Dell”)
Virginia is our state.
Virginia is our state.
Richmond is our capitol.
Virginia is our state.
Insert your state and capitol and sing wherever you are.

Sunday, June 28, 2020


Sign language is useful for classroom management, but it can also be a "hands-on" way to get information to the brain in the VIRTUAL CLASSROOM.


When introducing letters teach the manual signs.  
Make the signs as you sing different alphabet songs.

Sight Word Cues
Teach students the sign for each sight word to help them scaffold and make the connection.

As you introduce new vocabulary words, learn to sign them by using the dictionary on

Spelling Words
Use sign language to spell sight words, color words, CVC words, names, and so forth.

“Handy” (pun intended) Signs 
Teach children signs for “tissue,” “bathroom,” etc.

Calendar Time 
Use sign language for the days of the week and the months of the year as you sing calendar songs.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

GOOD IDEA #27 Sign Language

If you've ever been to my workshops, you know how much I LOVE sign language.  Yeah, I know I'm no good at it, but I TRY!

Let me tell you why I think sign language would be especially meaningful in the VIRTUAL CLASSROOM.

1.  It’s multi-sensory.
2.  It’s engaging.  Children are fascinated by the ability to "talk" with their hands.

3.  It's a great learning tool for teaching letters, sight words, vocabulary, etc.
4.  It’s good for differentiated instruction and for children who are non-English speakers.
5.  It’s free and it’s simple.
6.  Sign language can be a powerful tool for classroom management.

7.  Sign language integrates both hemispheres of the brain.

These are some signs that may be useful for classroom management online.  I'd introduce one sign at a time (or maybe each day).  Practice that sign and then teach another one and then another one...
Look! Listen! Learn (“L” by eyes, ears, and then brain.)
Stand Up (Two fingers standing on palm and then point up.)

Sit Down (Two fingers sitting on 2 fingers of other hand and point down.)

Stop (One palm open. Pretend to chop it with the other palm.)

Finished (Brush hands away from chest.)

More (Fingertips touching.)

Understand (Wiggle index finger near brain.)

Don’t Understand (Shake head “no” as you wiggle index finger.)

Please (One palm open on chest and make a circular motion.)

Thank you (Touch fingertips on chin and extend out.)

I love you! (Fingers up with middle finger and ring finger bent down.)


Check out this FREE ASL app:

Here are websites with sign language videos:

Friday, June 26, 2020


I found this KINDNESS PLEDGE in a guest blog that Drew Giles wrote several years ago.

Kindness Pledge (Drew Giles)
As kindness is such a focus in my life, I always enjoy sharing the following pledge at the beginning of each year with so much enthusiasm and joy. We teach the children how to sign the pledge’s keywords in American Sign Language. If you’re unsure how to sign the words, there are several online dictionaries, like or, that you can use to learn the words.

The Kindness Pledge
I pledge to myself, 
On this very day, 
To try to be kind, 
In every way.
To every person, 
Big or small, 
I will help them, 
If they fall.
When I love myself,
And others, too,
That is the best, 
That I can do!

Our world definitely needs a little - NO, A LOT - of kindness now!

Twiddle Your Thumbs (Sandra O’Laira)
Tell children if their hands get wiggly they can “twiddle their thumbs.”
Literally cross fingers and wiggle thumbs around each other.
Try twiddling your pointer fingers, pinkies, and other fingers.

This would be a simple way to release fidgets and help children focus.

Who Ate the Sound? (Candice Hall)
Adapt “Who Stole the Cookie?” to letters and sounds. Write letters on cookie shapes and place them in an empty cookie box. Pass the box around as children pull out a letter say:
     Who ate the letter or sound from the cookie jar?
     Child’s name ate the letter/sound from the cookie jar!
     Who me?
     Yes, you!
     Couldn’t be.
     Then who?

This would be a fun game to play when you have a few extra minutes.

Thursday, June 25, 2020


It's a good thing it's June 25th, because I've almost run out of "Good Ideas"! But, don't worry! I'm working on something special for July.

Tisket A Tasket Letters
(Pam Uecker)
I can make a letter.
I can make a letter.
I use my arms (or hands),
I use my legs,
And I can make a letter.


*Call out a letter for the children to make with their bodies.

You could also let children take turns making letters with their bodies while their friends try and guess what they are.

Foot Writing
Try “foot writing” where children make letters, shapes, and numerals with their foot. They could also practice writing sight words or spelling words.

Give a math problem and ask them to write out the answer with their foot.
Call out a word and ask them to make the beginning, medial, or end sound with their foot.

Twinkle 1 to 20
(Tune: “Twinkle Little Star”)
Point to the numbers as you sing:
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7
8 – 9 – 10
Then comes 11
12 – 13
14 – 15
16 – 17
18 – 19
Number 20 is at the end
Using fingers, count again! 

Hold up your fingers as you count, clap your hands as you count, tap your foot as you count, or make other motions.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020


(This is a cookie jar that my parents gave me for my birthday many years ago. 

 I treasure it!  My parents both went to a one room school and my 
father even taught my uncle there.)

School Days  (Traditional Tune)
School days, school days,
Time for back to school days.
Backpacks, and pencils,
And paper, too.
You’ll need crayons and scissors and sticky glue.
Shopping for new shoes and clothes
Who will be my teacher I want to know.
New friends and lots of good times
I can’t wait to go back to school.


Whether online or in person, it's always exciting when the new school year begins.

Virtual School Days
School days, school days,
Time for virtual school days.
You'll need a computer and table, too,
paper and pencils and crayons for you.
Listen to stories and learn new things.
Laugh and play and dance and sing.
New friends and lots of good times
I can't wait for virtual school.

Peace and Quiet (Carol Serna)
To quiet the class hold both hands above your shoulders (like Winston Churchill) and make the “V” sign. Children “sign” it back to the teacher and are quiet.

This is a "silent" attention grabber that would remind children to focus and listen.  I like the idea of using both hands.

Push the Wall- Brain Break
To build upper body strength while the children are waiting in line for lunch, PE, or whatever, have them put their hands on the wall and try to push it away. It's almost as good as doing push ups!
Children are going to get restless and inattentive without brain breaks.  They can do push ups on a wall, the floor, their desk, etc.  Use their brains by having them count, say the abc's, say rhymes, and so forth.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020


Here are some quick games that will keep those little hands busy.

Sign Language
Teach children sign language for “yes” (make a fist and nod it up and down) and “no” (extend middle and index finger from thumb and open and close. As you ask questions, children respond with the appropriate sign.


WOW!  Just think of all the ways that you could use this to review information!  Glance around the screen and you can easily see who needs more help.

Rhyme Detectives
Tell the children that they will get to be detectives andlisten for words that rhyme. You say a word, and they put their pinkies up if they hear a word that rhymes with it. Pinkies down if it doesn’t rhyme.
For example: Cat - hat (pinkies up), run - dog (pinkies down).

You could adapt this for phonics, math, and other concepts.

Name Rhymes (Nicole Cracco)
Think of a silly rhyme with each child's name.

This would be a silly rhyming activity for any age. Say a rhyme and see if the children can identify who it is.

Class Names
Sing the children's names to "Ten Little Indians."

Aiden, Grayson, Hugh, Jack 
Jacob, Jayden, Mac, Maddie 
Nicholas, Oliver, Samuel, Willa - 
these are the kids in our class. 

Ask the children to wave or make a silly motion online when you sing their name.

Monday, June 22, 2020




Cheer! (Debbi Smith)
Pat yourself on the back.
Shake your own hand.
Point to yourself and say, “Very good job!”

Now, this is perfect for the children when they are at home or school!

Secret Hands (Melinda Ainslie)
When her daughter started kindergarten she came home from school and asked, “Mama, can you keep a secret? When you put your hands together like this (cross your fingers), it’s MAGIC because you can see better and hear better!”

If children are wiggling their hands, ask them to please talk to their hands and tell them to be quiet.

My Little Thumbs Keep Moving (Judi Little)
(Tune: "The Bear Went over the Mountain")
My thumbs wiggle around, my thumbs wiggle around,   (Wiggle thumbs.)
My thumbs wiggle around and then I tell them STOP!
My hands tongue, etc.

This song would be a great attention grabber and a good way to release wiggles.

Hand Poem (Barb Williams) 
Hands up high. (Hands in the air.) 
Hands down low. (Hands down.) 
Hide those hands, now. (Hands behind your back.) 
Where did they go? (Shrug shoulders.) 
One hand up. (Right hand up.) 
The other hand, too. (Left hand up.) 
Clap them, (Clap.) 
Fold them, (Fold in lap.) 
Now we’re through! 

This finger play will be another "trick" to get children to do what you want them to do with positive redirection.

Sunday, June 21, 2020


What's your favorite idea today?

Names (Pam Bonenberger)
Make flash cards with children’s first and last names and their picture. Place 8 names at a time in a pocket chart and sing to the tune of “Are You Sleeping?”
     Joey Smith,
     Frank Wilson,
     Amy Craft,
     Susan Wells….

Every child (and adult) loves to hear their name. This would be a perfect song to help children get to know their classmates' first and last names.

Parent Observation (Misty Martin Gigliotti)
Prepare an observation sheet for parents who visit the classroom with the following:
-Is your child engaged in singing? Dancing? Listening? Hand movements?
-Does your child participate in activities? Centers? Are they playing alone, with a friend, friends? Are they watching other children play?
-Are they rushing through their work? Are they taking their time?
-Do you have questions about centers, the classroom, etc.?

I found this idea a teacher shared years ago.  It would be so insightful to ask parents to fill out something similar as they observe their child during distance learning.

Letter Looker (Julie Jones, Lebanon, MO)
Twist a pipe cleaner to look like a magnifying glass. Use it as a “letter looker” or “word looker” to frame letters or words on charts, big books, and classroom print.


Pipe cleaners would be inexpensive materials that could be provided for each child. They could be used to frame letters, shapes, words, and so forth in their home.

Password (Megan Engelsgjerd)
Practice sight words or CVC words by placing a sign on your door that says, "What's the password?" Write a new word each day and the students have to whisper it when they enter and leave the classroom. 
Choose a letter, number, shape, sight word, etc. and explain that they have to whisper it to join online because it's the magic password of the day.

Saturday, June 20, 2020


ENGAGEMENT is a key to the virtual classroom. Here are some activities that will encourage your students to get involved and think!

Body Spelling
For tall letters put your hands in the air. For midline letters stick your arms out by your sides. If a letter goes in the basement, touch your toes.


Older children could use this technique for spelling words or sight words. Younger children could use it for learning sizes of alphabet letters.

Questioning Strategy
(Mary Claire Porter)
When the teacher asks a question have the children blow their answer into their closed fist. When the teacher says, “What is it?” they “release” their answer by opening their hand and saying the answer out loud.

We know that talking helps store information in the brain. This strategy enables children to speak without worrying if their answer is right or wrong.

P.S. I found this idea and I think it's a good reminder for kids and for teachers!!!

Out of My Mouth (Dori Bailin)
To engage children and help them remember tell them:

Attention Grabber (Sherry Raessler)
I am looking.
What do I see?
I see (student, class) sitting (or standing or whatever you need) properly.
Children want to please, but they don't always know what to do. By focusing on a child modeling the correct behavior you show them what to do.

Friday, June 19, 2020


Alphabet knowledge is important online or in person.  Many children will know their letters when school begins, but for other children this will be like a new language.  Music and movement can provide a "bridge" for all learners because it's fun.


ABC Tunes
Did you know that the traditional tune we use to sing the A B C’s is also the tune for “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and “Twinkle Little Star”?

Here are several other tunes that you can use to sing the ABC’s. Give it a try!
“Amazing Grace”
“Braham’s Lullabye”
Theme from Gilligan’s Island
“100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”
“Mary Had a Little Lamb”
“Coming Round the Mountain”


Add actions to singing the alphabet.
March, tiptoe, disco (finger up in the air and then cross the midline and point down) as you sing.
Use a monster voice (loud), mouse voice (soft), turtle voice (slow), or a racehorse voice (fast).
*Encourage your students to suggest other voices and movements.

ABC Rap Clap
Begin a pattern by slapping thighs once and clapping twice.
A (slap on the letter and then clap twice)
B (slap, clap, clap)
C (slap, clap, clap)

Stand and pretend to hold a microphone as you say the letter.

ABC Athletes
Bend knees, grab your poles and swish back and forth across your body as you say the alphabet.

Bounce a basketball as you say letters.
Make karate chops as you say or sing the alphabet.
*Let children suggest other sports and movements.
Hold up flash cards of the letters as you sing and move.

Thursday, June 18, 2020


LOOK! LISTEN! LEARN! Those are three key words in any learning situation.

Good Listening Chant (Eunica Turner)
(Tune: “Where Is Thumbkin?”)
Eyes are watching. (Point to eyes.)
Ears are listening. (Point to ears.)
Lips are closed. (Point to lips.)
Hands are still. (Clasp hands together.)
Feet are very quiet. (Wiggle toes and point to feet.)
That’s the way we like it. (Nod our head.)
Listening well. Listening well. (Smile)
This song is a good example of "positive direction." It tells children what you WANT them to do instead of focusing on negative behavior.

Take a Picture (Brenda Lee)
Use this strategy to help children remember letters, numerals, or sight words.
     Focus your camera. (Look at the first letter.)
     Focus your camera. (Look at the word.)
     Focus your camera. (Look at each letter.)
     Snap the picture. (Each child’s camera button is on their head.)
     Now it is filed away in your brain.
     You can close your eyes and see the picture.

It's so interesting that when you TELL your brain something is important and to remember it - IT WILL!

Teeny Tiny Duties
Ask children to choose several jobs 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.


We can't assign classroom jobs, but children can certainly be encouraged to help out at home.

Question of the Day (Mary McCarroll)
First, do a drum roll by slapping hands on thighs.
Second, count backwards from 10, 9, 8…0
Third, ask a question. Children suggest answers. Accept all answers and try not to judge.
Asking questions is a powerful way to get children to THINK outside the box. It can also help children to scaffold to a higher level.