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Friday, April 19, 2024


These games are perfect for children to play with a partner or with a small group. Peer teaching is one of the best ways for children to learn, so children who have mastered skills will be able to help their classmates succeed.

Pony Round-Up
Why? upper and lowercase letters, numbers, beginning sounds, etc.
What? spring clothespins, heavy paper
How? Cut ponies and saddles out of cardstock paper using the pattern on the following page. Print an uppercase letter on each pony, and a lowercase letter on each saddle. Children take the ponies and stand them up using the clothespins as legs. Next, children match the correct saddle for each pony.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
Why? matching upper and lowercase letters, pictures and sounds, sets and numerals, math facts and answers, etc.
What? heavy paper, clothespins
How? Cut bears and shirts out of paper. Write uppercase letters on the bears and lowercase letters on the shirts. Children match bears and shirts with clothespins.

My Messy House
Materials: cardstock or heavy paper, spring clothes pins, string
Directions: Cut clothes out of paper using the attached pattern. Write skills on the clothes and place them on the floor. Tie a string between two chairs to make your clothesline. Children choose a piece of clothing, identify the information, and then hang it up on the clothesline.

This game can be used with the whole class, a small group, or in a learning center. Here are a few skills you could reinforce:

Letters – Write letters on clothes and children can hang them up as they say the letter and make the sound.
*Write uppercase letters and lowercase letters on clothes and children can match them and hang them up.
*Hang letters in alphabetical order.

Numbers – Write numerals on clothes for children to hang up in order.Z
*Write math facts on some clothes and numerals on others for children to match and hang up.

Words – Children can hang up words they can read. Can they make a sentence with their word?
*Hang up words in order to make a sentence.
*Write antonyms or synonyms on words for children to match.

You’ll have a CLEAN HOUSE for sure with these games!

Thursday, April 18, 2024


ZAP, BOOM, WIGGLE WORMS, AND STARS are all adaptions of a classroom game that your students will love (and learn from) when you've got a few extra minutes.

SKILLS: letters; words; phrase cards; math facts; shapes, etc.

MATERIALS: small can with a smooth edge (such as one from chips,
frosting, etc.), large craft sticks, markers, wrapping paper

DIRECTIONS: Cover the can with paper and write ZAP! on it as shown.

On the bottom of sticks print words or other skills. On several sticks write “ZAP!” Place all the sticks in the can with the words towards the bottom of the can. Have the children sit in a circle. One at a time, children hold the can and pull out a stick and identify the word on it. When a child chooses a stick with “Zap!” on it, they return all their sticks to the can. Continue passing the can until there is one person left.

Hint! If children can’t identify the information on their stick, let them “phone a friend” for the answer.

More! For older students, add sticks that say, “You get two turns.” “Take a peek.” “Loose a turn.” “Skip.”

Write "Boom!" on several sticks and when children choose that stick they jump up and shout, "BOOM!

Write "Wiggle Worms!" on several sticks. Children stand and wiggle like a worm if they pull this stick.

Glue stars to several sticks. If children choose this stick they get to keep it.

*You can also adapt this game for different holidays or units of study. For example, in October you could use skeleton stickers and the children could “shake their bones.” In January glue a snowman and they have to shiver.

Stinky Cheese
Why? sight words, fluency phrases, letters, math facts, shapes, etc.
What? lunch bag, yellow construction paper, marker
How? Cut cheese slices out of poster board or fun foam. Write letters, words, numbers, etc. on most of the cheese slices. On two slices write “Stinky Cheese!” Place the cheese slices in a lunch sack. Children pass around the sack drawing out one slice at a time. If they can identify the information on the slice they get to keep it. If they get “Stinky Cheese!” everyone holds their noses and says, “Stinky Cheese!” That person must then put all her slices back in the bag.

*How about a game of “stinky feet” or “stinky socks”?
*An empty cheese cracker box makes a more durable container for the game.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024


Paper plates are cheap, durable, and make perfect flashcards for these games.

Skills: words, letters, math facts, colors, shapes, etc.
Materials: paper plate flashcards with information you want to practice
Directions: Do you remember the old game where you placed chairs in a circle and walked around until the music stopped? If you didn’t find a chair you were OUT! This is a similar game that can reinforce letters, words, colors, math facts, etc. Scatter the paper 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 plates. Have the children place the plates back on the floor and continue dancing.

*If the child is unsure about what is on their plate invite them to “ask the audience.”

*You can play a game similar to musical chairs where you remove one word at a time so children have to scramble to find a word.

Word Worm
Draw the face of a worm on a paper plate. Write sight words on other plates. Pass out a word card to each child. One at a time children come up and place their word next to the worm’s head. Each child reads all of the previous words before placing her word down. How long can the worm grow!

Hint! Children can “ask the audience” to read with them if they are unsure of the words.

Skills: words, letters, shapes, colors, etc.
Materials: flashcards
Directions: Divide the class into two teams and have them stand on opposite sides of the room facing each other. Give each player a flashcard to hold in front of them. The teacher goes to one team and asks, “Who do you want to call over?” The children select someone from the opposite side and say, “Red rover, red rover, send (word) right over.” The child holding that word walks, hops, tiptoes, or jumps to the opposite side. The game continues as sides take turns calling words over.

Skills: words, letters, math facts, etc.
Materials: flashcards
Directions: Have the children close their eyes as you hide the flashcards around the room. Children open their eyes and hunt for the words. When they find one they bring it to the teacher and read it. Then they hide it again and look for another word. The game continues as long as the children are interested.

I found this game called “SCOOTS” that Jessica Quisenberry taught me several years ago. This game can be adapted for all content areas and age levels and it beats a worksheet or computer game any day!

Write math facts, sight words, pictures, etc. on index cards. Write a letter or number in the corner of each card. Tape the cards around the room.

Prepare an answer grid similar to the one shown. Children “scoot” or walk around the room until they find a card. They can then put their answer on the grid.

Hint! Cardboard clipboards work great for this activity.

*Adapt the number of sections to the age and ability of your students.

Example: math facts (write the answer)

Phonics (picture for children to identify the beginning sound, blend, vowel, etc.)

Parts of speech (word and they write if it is a noun or verb)

Tuesday, April 16, 2024


Sometimes children get a little over zealous if you are playing team games where you keep points. Here’s a tip to eliminate some of that competitiveness. Take a deli lid and trace around it twice on paper and cut out. Write “high” on one circle and “low” on the other circle and tape to opposite sides of the lid. (I had to trim the circles a little to get them to fit on the lid.) After playing the game, toss the lid. If it lands on “high” the team with the highest score wins. If it lands on “low” the team with the lowest score wins. 


Note! Do you see how easy it is to adapt these games for whatever age or skill you are working with? Pre-k teachers could use shapes and letters, while second grade teachers could use vocabulary words, math facts, or science questions.

Pick Up
Place the flash cards randomly on the floor in the middle of the room. Divide the class into two teams. Choose one child from each team to come up and play. Call out a word. The first child to pick it up wins a point for their team.

Write words on scrap paper and distribute to the children. (Older children could write their own words.) Each child wads up their paper to make a snowball. Divide the class into two teams and have them stand on opposite sides of the room. When the teacher says, “Let it snow!” the children begin throwing snowballs at each other. Before they can throw a snowball back at the other team, they must open the paper and read the word. The game continues until the teacher says, “Freeze.” The children gather the snowballs on their side and count. The side with the least amount wins.

*Adapt the game for math facts, letters, children's names, and other skills.

*A variation of this would be for the teacher to make the snowballs ahead of time by writing words, math facts, etc. on scrap paper. The children wad them up and then begin throwing. There are no teams, but the children just pick up snowballs, open them, identify the information, and then wad it up and throw it again.

Catch and Tell
“Catch and Tell” can be played if you've got a few minutes during transitions, while waiting in the hall, or at the end of the day as a review. All you will need is a bean bag or small sponge ball to play this game. The teacher says a letter and then tosses the ball to a child. That child must name something that begins with that sound before tossing the ball back to the teacher.

*This game can be adapted for rhyming words, colors, math facts, social studies, and other skills.

Skills: numerals, letters, words, etc.
Materials: marker, two fly swatters

Directions: Write numerals (letters, words, etc.) on the board. Divide the class into two teams. One child from each team comes forward and is given a fly swatter. The teacher calls out a math fact. The first student to “swat” or hit the numeral that is the answer gets a point for their team. The game continues as children from each team come forward to “swat” the answer.

* STOMP is a similar game played with flashcards. Divide the class into two teams facing each other. Place the flashcards on the floor in between the two teams. Choose one child from each team to play. Call out a math problem. The first child to stomp on the answer wins a point for their team.

Kids vs. Teacher
Draw a T chart on the board with “Kids” on one side and “Teacher” on the other side. Hold up a flash card. If a child raises her hand and correctly reads the word, she gets a point for the “kids.” If any child shouts out the answer, then the teacher gets a point.

(If children keep talking out of turn, just continue to give points to the teacher. They’ll figure it out!)

Four Corners
Several years ago Ginny McLay told me how she adapted 4 corners for different skills she was working on. She said she wrote skills they needed to practice (sounds, math facts, sight words, etc.) on sticky notes and placed them in a corner in the classroom. She made a second copy on index cards. The kids tiptoed to a corner while the teacher covered her eyes. The teacher then randomly picked an index card and called out that information. If they were in that corner they had to sit down. The game continued as the kids moved to another corner until one student was left.

Monday, April 15, 2024


I used to love to make and play games in my classroom. I would often tell my children, “If you work hard in reading group, then we’ll have time to play a game at the end.” What they didn’t realize was that the game usually reinforced a skill we were working on.

Over the next few days I'll share a few of my “favorite games” that I have played with children over the years. Adapt them, change them, and, above all, have FUN with them! 

Hint! Games are also a great way to reinforce skills that might be part of your assessment at the end of the year.

SKILLS: letters; sounds; math facts; contractions; antonyms, etc.
MATERIALS: spatula, poster board, markers
DIRECTIONS: Cut 3 ½” circles out of poster board. 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.

Hint! Craft foam and corrugated cardboard also make good flippers.

More! 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.

Put sets, number words, or math facts on one side and the answer on
 the reverse side. 

Write antonyms on opposite sides. 

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

What’s Up, Pup?

SKILLS: phonics; rhymes; sets and numerals; math facts
MATERIALS: Construction paper, scissors, markers, old workbooks, glue
DIRECTIONS: Cut puppies out of construction similar to the one shown.
Cut pictures of familiar objects from workbooks. Glue a picture on the puppy’s tummy and the corresponding initial letter under the ear. Children identify the sound and then check by lifting the ear. 

More! Use this pattern for matching upper and lowercase letters, words and pictures, math facts, etc.

Go Fishing
Why? letters, sight words, math facts, etc.
What? stick, string, magnet, brad fastener
How? Cut out fish using the pattern on the following page. Write skills on the fish and attach a brad fastener for eyes. Tie one end of a piece of string to the stick and attach the magnet to the other end of the string. Spread the fish out on the floor. Children try to catch a fish by dangling the magnet over the eye. They can keep the fish if they can identify the information on it.

Tic Tac Toe
Children will need paper, crayons, and a hard surface. Tell them to make a big tic tac toe frame in the middle of their paper. Next, ask them to write a letter in each section. Randomly call out alphabet letters. If they have that letter on their grid they can color it in. The first one to get three in a row or cover their whole frame wins.
*Adapt for numbers, sight words, or other skills.

Sunday, April 14, 2024


You know all those cardboard food boxes you throw away? Well, here's a great opportunity to give them a second life, teach your children to recycle, and make some cool materials for your classroom. Send a note asking families to save their cardboard food boxes for a week and then let the fun begin!

Cardboard Castle 
Let children use masking tape to create a castle or other play sculpture.

What's for Breakfast? Book 
Each child chooses the front of their favorite cereal box. They can write original sentences or fill in the blank "(Child's name) likes (cereal)."

Cut box fronts into puzzle shapes. Store in zip bags. For younger children use two like boxes. Cut one up and let them place the pieces on the second box.

Fronts and Backs 
Cut front and back panels off of boxes. Mix them up and then ask the children to match up the ones that go together.

*Play a memory game where you place the fronts and backs face down on the floor. Children try to match up pairs.

Stencils and Templates 
Cut geometric shapes out of box fronts. Children can trace these with colored pencils, crayons, or markers.
*Cut seasonal shapes or objects that relate to a unit of study for the children to trace.

Sewing Cards 
Punch holes around the sides of boxes. Children can sew these with yarn, string, or old shoelaces.

Cut notches around the sides of boxes and let children weave through these with yarn.

Give each child the front panel off a box. Can you cut it in half? Fourths? Eights?

Math – Have children sort the boxes by product, size, etc. Graph favorite cereals, cookies, crackers, etc.
How about a free song download and flip book about recycling?

What Will I Be When They Recycle Me?
(Tune: “Oh, Dear, What Can the Matter Be?”)
What will I be when they recycle me? (Roll hands in a circle.)
What will I be when they recycle me?
What will I be when they recycle me?
I’ll come back to life—you will see! (Clap your hands and then point your finger.)

I am an empty soda can (Pretend to hold a soda can in front of you.)
Made of precious aluminum.
I can save lots of energy
If you will recycle me. (Roll hands in a circle.)

I’m an old bottle of plastic (Pretend to hold a plastic bottle.)
But I could be fantastic!
Toys, pipes, car bumpers, and much more—
That’s what my plastic is for. (Roll hands in a circle.)

A pile of used boxes and papers we (Make an invisible square in the air.)
Come from the precious wood of trees.
Recycled we’ll be as good as new (Roll hands in a circle.)
And save some other trees, too.

I am a fine jar made of glass— (Cup hands to make a bowl.)
Please don’t treat me like plain old trash! (Shake head “no.”)
I’ll make new jars again and again
Recycle me—yes you can! (Roll hands in a circle.)

Though we may look like old used stuff, (Open palms.)
Stop, wait! Please don’t give up on us! (Make sign language for “stop.”)
Think of the great possibilities— (Put index finger on your head and tap.)
Recycle us, set us free! (Roll hands in a circle and then throw up hands in the air.)

Saturday, April 13, 2024


One of the best ways to be on the "green team" is to keep the earth beautiful by picking up trash. There's nothing more frustrating to me than to see trash along the road, but maybe we can improve things in the future by getting our students to join the LITTER PATROL!

Litter Patrol
Well, here we go, (Clap and snap fingers to the beat.)
We’re on the litter patrol.
We’re going to work all day
To put the trash away.
The planet earth, you see
Is our habitat.
We’re going to clean it up,
Well, how about that!

Litter Bags
Ask your students to bring in an empty cereal box or cardboard food box.
1. Cut the tops off the boxes.
2. Punch a hole in each short side.
3. Tie on a piece of string. Use these to collect trash or have the children place these in their cars.

Earth Day Project
Plan a community project where parents and children come together to clean up a park or natural area in your community. Make sure you have gloves and trash bags for the participants.

Trash Snack
How about a “trash snack”? You will need ice cream cones, Gold Fish crackers, Cheerios, pretzel sticks, and peanuts. Take 4 lunch sacks and put a different item in each sack. Write “old tires” on the sack with Cheerios, write "dead fish" on the sack with the crackers, “sticks” on the sack with pretzel sticks, and “stones” on the sack with peanuts. Take a large bowl and make up a story about collecting trash. As you name the different items, invite different children to dump the contents in the bowl. Stir with a large spoon and then serve the “trash” in trashcans (ice cream cones). The cool thing about this snack is that there is NO trash when the children have finished eating!

Hint! Substitute raisins for peanuts if you have students with food allergies. You can also use sunflower seeds or other snack foods.