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Friday, October 15, 2021


Life is full of surprises, and a beautiful "surprise" happened recently when we moved to Greenville, SC. One of our neighbors invited us for dinner and we were talking about our lives and careers. My neighbor mentioned that her daughter worked at a "mostly outdoor" school in Ohio, and we were immediately connected!

I want you to meet her daughter, Dawn Nauman, because what she is doing is exciting, and inspirational, and an endorsement of what early childhood education should be!

Drum roll.....Here's Dawn from the School for Young Children in Columbus, Ohio!

Children thrive on repetition. In the twos classroom, we sing the same song every time we meet, we might read the same book ten times in a row. In the threes, a child might always play with the trains to start the day, or always may be at the playdough table. A child in the fours might need the exact bike they want and a few spins around the playground to get started. Classroom schedules are comfortable repetitious time periods where kids learn to know what to expect and to understand boundaries. Familiar toys, familiar peers and familiar play themes, all those repetitious acts make up play in early childhood. And play is how kids learn. So how does taking a familiar program and becoming intentionally outside during a pandemic feed a child’s need for repetition and learning? It takes it up a notch, in an extremely valuable way.

I remember being at a play-based conference session with the SYC staff a few years ago where a facilitator described a childhood of roaming natural landscapes with her peers and playing in creeks, woods, and fields without a “toy” in sight. She talked about her play-based center which she focuses on loose parts and outdoor time and how that fits into the schemas of childhood. This year I’ve been thinking back to that conference, and that session, and the concept of schemas in early childhood and how the schemas haven’t changed with a change in plans and location but how they have been practiced in some ways in a richer environment. If you aren’t familiar with schemas, there’s a great article on They describe schema as “repeatable behavior … that you can notice in your child's play during early childhood. No matter where you are in the world, these same schemas are exhibited by kids. Experts believe that when kids repeat these patterns in different situations, kids develop physically and cognitively. In turn, they are better able to understand, navigate and interact with their worlds, resulting in transformative learning.”

This year at SYC, repeating patterns in different situations is the name of the game due to so much time with outdoor learning. Think schema combined with problem solving on the fly every day. Kids have the opportunities laid out before them to assess, take a risk, practice their ideas and take time to work them out. When they want to transport something from one side of the playground to another in the fall, they use a wagon or wheelbarrow (or as one of our kids calls it, a wheelie barrel). In the winter they moved loose parts with sleds. If a kid in the morning fours class always plays on the climber, but one day finds it awfully slippery, they might tape it off and put out signs for the next class. (These kids take their repetitive behavior/ problem solving skills with a side of practical literacy). While we can afford many opportunities for children to experience these same patterns in an indoor classroom, changes in natural settings create wonder, unexpected challenges and rewards for those who experience them.

The common behavioral schema in childhood are:








Pandemic SYC is still rooted in supporting social and emotional growth in children. Being outside provides opportunities for kids to build self confidence each time they assume the challenge of dressing for the elements (and undressing for toileting). They learn caution and to trust their judgement on slippery or muddy surfaces. They learn flexibility when a play area changes with the elements and adjustments need to be made to their play ideas. They learn to use their voice when they need help negotiating changes. Community is built in an expansive space that provides room for everyone to join in. Ultimately, teachers recognize that the social and emotional work we do with children has not changed as the play area has expanded, however the opportunities for that work has. We see the same struggles and growth with communicating with peers, setting limits and articulating needs that we see in a largely indoor environment replayed outside. However, this year, the outside has become the added teacher with challenges and rewards abundant for every child.


Did Dawn spark your interest?  You can email her

Thursday, October 14, 2021


Graphic organizers (aka mind maps) are a visual way of putting information in the brain. Graphic organizers are frequently used in reading, but they can also be used to reinforce math skills and help children understand how things fit together. Here are three good reasons to give them a try:
     1. They encourage children to “think outside the box.”
     2. They are much more open-ended and challenging than a worksheet.
     3. They can be done independently or with a partner or small group.

Some common graphic organizers used in the classroom include the attribute web, Venn diagram, T-chart, and tic-tac-toe frame. First, I would model using the graphic organizer with a large group, and then I would assign it for an independent or center activity.

Hint! After completing a graphic organizer invite children to explain what they did. This will enable you to “understand” their thinking process and will help make learning more meaningful. (Remember, writing and talking are two powerful ways to store things in the brain!)

Attribute Web
Have children write a numeral in the middle and then web different ways to represent that number.

Venn Diagram
Write numbers made with a straight line on the left, numbers made from curves on the right, and numbers made from lines and curves in the middle.


*Put a number in the middle. Write numbers larger on the left and smaller on the right.

Write odd numbers on the left and even numbers on the right.
Write “tens” on the left and “ones” on the right.

Write a number in the middle and facts that equal that number in the other sections.

Write “10” in the middle and other teen numbers around it.

Can you think of other ways to turn mind maps into math maps?

Wednesday, October 13, 2021


More?  Less?  Equal?

Divide children into partners and give them manipulatives and a sack with three index cards on which you have written “greater than,” “less than,” and “equal.” One child makes a set with the manipulatives. The second child draws a card from the bag and then makes a set according to the directions on the card.


SQUISH is a similar game that can be played with play dough. One child squishes the dough and makes a set. The second child selects a card and then must squish the play dough to make a set “greater,” “less than,” or “equal.”

Dealer’s Choice
Remove the face cards from a deck of playing cards. Draw three sections on a sheet of construction paper and write “high,” “low,” and “equal.” Children turn over two cards at a time and place the cards in the appropriate pile.

*This is a fun game to play with a friend.

The Price Is Right!
Cut pictures of items from a toy catalog or flyer. Cover up the price. Let children estimate how much each item costs. Show the actual value and determine who guessed more, less, or the closest amount.

Paper Clip

Make a number line on a sentence strip. Use a paper clip to slide to different numbers and the children can see what comes before and after.


Counting on a Shoestring
Write numerals 0-20 on a cotton shoestring with a permanent marker. Insert a bead. Children move the bead as they count. They can clearly see what is one more and one less.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021


You can count on me to give you some engaging ways to get kids to skip count.

Counting by Two’s (Melanie Hope)
Have students identify body parts that come in sets of two. Stand and count by two’s as you touch the following body parts:
2 – hands on eyes
4 – hands on ears
6 – hands on elbows
8 – knees
10 – feet
12 – eyes
14 – ears….
You’ll be able to count to 100 by 2’s before you know it!

High Five Book
Trace around each child’s hands on a 6” square and let them decorate it with markers or crayons. Make a cover that says “High Five Book.” Tape the pages together to make an accordion book. Number the pages 5, 10, 15, 20, etc. Read over the book counting by 5’s to 100.

*Make a “Piggie Book” by tracing around children’s feet. Number the pages 10, 20, 30, etc. and practice counting by ten’s with this book.

Whisper Skip Count
One (Touch head as you whisper “one.”)
Two (Touch shoulders and say “two.”)
Three (Touch head and whisper.)
Four (Touch shoulders and say “four.”)
Five (Touch head and whisper.)
Six (Touch shoulders and say “six.”)
Seven (Touch head and whisper.)
Eight (Touch shoulders and say, “eight.”)
Nine (Touch head and whisper.)
Ten (Touch shoulders as you say “ten.”)

*To count by 3’s, touch shoulders and whisper “one,” touch shoulders and whisper “two,” touch waist and say “three.”
*To count by 4’s, whisper on 1-3 and touch knees as you say “four.”
*To count by 5’s, whisper on 1-4 and touch toes as you say “five.”

Odd and Even (Tune: “Old MacDonald”)
There was a teacher who had some numbers
And ODD was their name-o.
1, 3, 5, 7, 9
1, 3, 5, 7, 9
1, 3, 5, 7, 9
And ODD was their name-o.

There was a teacher who had some numbers
And EVEN was their name-o.
0, 2, 4, 6, 8…

Macarena Count to 100 by Tens

Children stand and do the “Macarena” as they count.
1 (Right arm out palm down.)
2 (Left arm out palm down.)
3 (Right palm up.)
4 (Left palm up.)
5 (Right hand on left shoulder.)
6 (Left hand on right shoulder.)
7 (Right hand behind head.)
8 (Left hand behind head.)
9 (Right hand on left hip.)
10 (Left hand on right hip.)
(Clap two times.)
That is one ten. (Hold up one finger.)


Karate Chop Count 
Feet out, knees bent, karate chop with your right hand and then your left as you count by ones.  
*Do leg curls and chops as you count by 5’s to 100 
*Kick front and back as you count by 10’s to 200. 
*Wax on, wax off as you count by 100’s to 1000. 

Sing and Skip Count

Sing and skip count by 2’s to “Twinkle Little Star.”
2, 4, 6, 8, 10,
12, 14, 16, 18,
20, 22, 24
Then start over and count some more.
2, 4, 6, 8, 10,
Numbers, numbers never end.

Practice counting by 3’s to “Are You Sleeping?”
3, 6, 9, 12 (Children repeat each line.)
15, 18, 21 (Children repeat.)
24, 27 (Children repeat.)
30, 33, 36 (Children repeat.)

4’s “Row Your Boat”
5’s “The Bear Went over the Mountain”
6’s “London Bridge”
7’s “Ten Little Indians”
8’s “This Old Man”

Monday, October 11, 2021

1, 2, 3 - COUNT WITH ME!

Counting is a basic strand across math standards. There’s even research that suggests counting with pre-k children can build math concepts they will use later on in kindergarten and primary grades. To avoid rote counting without meaning, let TOUCH AND COUNT be the mantra you repeat and model over and over. Counting will also have more meaning if you tie it into finger plays, songs, and movements. 

*Adapt these activities for younger children by just counting from 1-10. Older students can count to 100 and beyond. 

Little Red Number Box (Sarah Wilson) 
Put magnetic numbers in a metal tin and then sing the song as you pull out a number. Then count to that number. 
For example: I wish I had a little tin box to put a 6 in. I’d take it out and count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and put it back in.

Move and Count 
Have children count as they jump, hop, and do other movements.

*Count the steps to the lunchroom.
*Count how long it takes everyone to sit down quietly.
*Count the number of chairs in the room, tables, toys, girls, boys, dragons (that's a joke!) etc.

Number Sticks
These math sticks are easy to make and can be used in many ways. You’ll need magnetic numbers and shapes, jumbo craft sticks, and a strong glue (such as E6000). Glue the numbers  to the sticks and you are all set!

*Let children hold up the appropriate stick as you do finger plays and counting songs.
*Can they walk around the room and match up their number with classroom print or the appropriate number of objects?

Number Hunt 
Take lunch sacks and write different numerals on them. Give each child a bag and ask them to take the sack home and bring in that number of objects.  Let children share what they have found with their friends the following day. 

Giant Number Line
Attach a piece of tape to the floor in a prominent place in your classroom. Let children walk on it forwards, backwards, hop, etc. After playing with the line, ask them to sit on the floor. Explain that you’re going to turn it into a number line as you demonstrate writing numbers (0-10) on the tape. 
*Ask one child at a time to walk on the number line as they say each number.
*Call out different numbers and ask random students to stand on those numbers. What is one more? What is one less?
*Give students dot cards (0-10) and ask them to match their card with the number on the line.

Five Little Hot Dogs  (“Five Little Ducks” - Just for Fun CD)
Five little hotdogs frying in the pan.            (Hold up five fingers.)
The grease got hot, and one went BAM!            (Clap.)
Four little hotdogs…            (Four fingers.)
Three…                        (Three fingers.)
Two…                                    (Two fingers.)
One…                                    (One finger.)
No little hotdogs frying in the pan.   (Hold up fist.)
The pan got hot and it went BAM!

Number March (“The Ants Go Marching” - Totally Math CD)
The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah.  (Hold up 1 finger.)
The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah.  (Put fist in the air and cheer.)
They all were red and the first one said:
“You’d better catch up, I’m way ahead.”
And they all went marching one by one by one.

The spiders go crawling two by two hurrah, hurrah…  (Crawl 2 fingers.)

The birds go flying three by three hurrah, hurrah…  (Hold up 3 fingers and fly.)

The rabbits go hopping four by four hurrah, hurrah…  (Pretend to hop 4 fingers.)

The horses go galloping five by five hurrah, hurrah…  (Gallop 5 fingers on thigh.)

The fish go swimming six by six hurrah, hurrah…  (Pretend to swim 6 fingers.)

The mice go creeping seven by seven hurrah, hurrah…  (Creep 7 fingers up arm.)

The worms go wiggling eight by eight hurrah, hurrah…(Wiggle 8 fingers.)

The monkeys go swinging nine by nine hurrah, hurrah… (Swing 9 fingers.)

The kids go walking ten by ten hurrah, hurrah…  (Hold up 10 fingers and 
                       pretend to walk.)

You can download a free book that goes with this song at  

Activities:  Let children take different verses and illustrate them.  Put their pictures together to make a class book.

Sunday, October 10, 2021


It’s time for a little geometry today, but these ideas will also reinforce small motor skills, letters, and creativity.

What’s a line? What’s a curve? 
Start by finding out what children know about lines and curves. Let them take turns drawing lines and curves on the board. Can they walk around the room and touch a line? Can they touch a curve? As you walk down the hall have them silently point to lines and curves. Can they find lines and curves in nature on the playground?

Horizontal, Vertical Song (Carrie O’Bara and Terri Miller)
(Tune: “Where Is Thumbkin?”)
Horizontal, horizontal,
(Forearms held up horizontally in front of chest.)
Vertical, vertical.
(Forearms bent at elbows to form right angles.)
Horizontal, horizontal,
Vertical, vertical.

Then diagonal, then diagonal.
(Right arm slants in front and then left.)
Add a curve. Add a curve.
(Make a “c” with right hand and then left.)
Then diagonal, then diagonal.
Add a curve. Add a curve.

*Sing the song as children make appropriate strokes with crayons on paper, with chalk on the playground, in a sand tray, and so forth.

Skinny Books
This is a super idea to help children learn to track from left to right and practice pre-writing strokes. Lay 4 sheets of paper on top of each other and staple four times along the left side. Cut horizontal lines to make four skinny books. Children practice drawing horizontal lines, vertical lines, curves, and diagonal lines on each page.


Play Dough
Draw lines and curves with a permanent marker on placemats or plastic plates. Let children roll the dough and place it on top of the lines and curves.

Letter Sort
What letters are made from lines? Curves? Lines and curves? Let children sort magnetic letters on the board or for a center activity.


Number Sort
Using a Venn diagram, have children sort numerals that are made with lines, curves, or both.

Prepare sheets of paper ahead of time with random curves and lines made with a black marker. Children choose a sheet of paper and try and create a design or object from the lines and curves on their page. *Encourage them to fill in the whole page.

Saturday, October 9, 2021


Note!  I was looking through some old blogs and found this idea. It's so simple and could be adapted to any holiday or any skills.  You'll also find an idea for a MAGIC PUMPKIN that Carolyn Kisloski shared a few years ago.  

Here’s a game that you can make with a pumpkin, gift bag, or other seasonal container. It’s great for practicing skills, listening, and following directions. Keep it on your desk and you can use it whenever you have a few extra minutes.

Take index cards and write simple one or two step directions on them. For example: “Touch the flag and then walk to the trash can.” “Go under the teacher’s desk and then knock on the door.” “Balance on one foot and say a nursery rhyme.” “Go to the front of the room and tell a joke.” Place the cards in a plastic pumpkin. Let children take turns selecting cards and following the directions.

Hint! You will have to read the directions to younger students.

*Let older students write their own directions to use for the game.

Just think about skills your students need to master and an action and you're ready to get going. For example:

Clap and count by ten’s to 100.

Touch your nose and spell the word SHE.

Point to the word ‘THE’ in the room and then jump two times.

Touch something that is a sphere and then tiptoe and touch something that is a circle.

Turn around and count backwards from 10.

Walk to the front of the room and act out an adjective.

March and touch a noun.

Walk to the back of the room and tell the day of the week, the month and the year.

Gallop as you count by 5's to 100.

Skip around the room as you say the months in the year.