Tuesday, February 19, 2019


I'm telling you about this a few days early because it's going to take some planning to get "unplugged" for the day.


From sundown to sundown, beginning Friday (March 1), some are putting down their cellphones, shutting off computers, and ignoring the Internet in celebration of the annual National Day of Unplugging.


Check out this free booklet that you can download on the website:

I loved this little cell phone sleeping bag.
There are many things we do in schools that don’t have an impact on children, but I bet if you “unplugged” for one day it would leave a lasting impression. It could also lead to some great learning opportunities. Students could write opinions, do a T-Chart of things to do with a screen and without a screen, graph preferences, make a book about what to do without technology, do a Venn diagram...

Have you read BLACKOUT by John Rocco. It’s a delightful tale about what happens when a family in a big city loses power. I won’t tell you what happens, but I bet you can guess. I was talking to some children recently about the “olden days” before televisions, video games, cell phones, and computers. They were stunned and said, “What did you do?” I smiled and replied, “You know what? We played outside and had lots of fun!”


Several years ago a teacher told me that they asked the families at her school to record the amount of screen time their child had for a week. The next week they asked the parents to turn off all devices and spend the same amount of time interacting with their child by reading, playing games, doing chores around the house, going for walks, etc. Do you think most families could survive this? It certainly would be a meaningful challenge!

Monday, February 18, 2019


Do you want to perk up your classroom, but you don't have a lot of time and money? Take a look at these simple ideas I found on some old blog posts.

Showtime on the Smart Board! (KIRPC Head Start, Indiana)
Take some sheets, tie the ends with ribbons, and then hang it on hooks around the smart board.

Out the Door (Nacine Barrow)
Encourage the children to bring in environmental print and post them along with sight words on your door. Students have to read two of the words before exiting the classroom.

Flower Power (Jeannie Modest)
Let the children create word family flowers. They write the rime on the inside of the flower and then attach petals with words that have that rime.


Sunday, February 17, 2019


February 17th is officially Random Acts of Kindness Day, but these activities are perfect any day!  Start the day tomorrow by asking what "random acts of kindness" means.  Brainstorm examples and then challenge each of your students to do at least 3 acts of kindness during the week.

Kindness Club

Write "The Kindness Club" on the board or a poster and have students write the names of classmates who do something kind for them.

Give each child "kindness tickets" to distribute to friends who do something nice for them. 

*Thanks to Carolyn Kisloski for creating these tickets and poster for you.


Kindness Bracelet
Make bracelets from pipe cleaners. When they do a good deed they can get a bead and add it to their bracelet.

Kindness Book
Make a "Kindness Book" where students can record something positive a classmate has done for them.

Here are some other suggestions from randomactsofkindness.org:

1. Smile at one extra person.

2. Each lunch (or play) with someone new.

3. Make sure to say "I love you" or give someone special a hug.

4. Send a positive message or help someone.


Saturday, February 16, 2019


This is a perfect way to integrate vocabulary and give your students something to look forward to this week. On Monday explain that you will have a “vocabulary parade” on Friday. They will each need to think of a special word that describes them. (You can call these “Fancy Nancy” words or ask them to get their parents to help them think of a big, new word!)

Encourage them to come up with their word by Thursday, and then use their word as a writing activity. Have them write their word, the definition, use it in a sentence, and then illustrate it.

On Friday give them a long strip of paper or a sentence strip. After writing their word they get to decorate it with markers, glitter, etc. Pin the words on them and let them parade around the room to music. One at a time children pretend they are on the “runway” and model their words. As they model they tell their classmates their word, the definition, and why they chose it.

Hint!  One teacher said her whole school participated in the vocabulary parade.  Each grade level took a different category, such as nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, etc.

We’re Great! (Just for Fun CD)
We’re great, but no one knows it.
No one knows it so far.
Some day they’ll realize how wonderful we are!
They’ll look at us, and point at us, and then they’ll shout, “Hurray!”
Let’s cheer how we’re wonderful beginning with A.
A- We’re awesome.
B- We’re brave.
C- We’re creative.
D- We’re dynamic
E- We’re enthusiastic
F- We’re fantastic.
G- We’re gifted
H- We’re honest
I- We’re imaginative
J- We’re joyful.
K- We’re kind.
L- We’re lovable
M- We’re magnificent.
N- We’re nice.
O- We’re outgoing
P- We’re polite.
Q- We’re quick.
R- We’re responsible
S- We’re special.
T- We’re terrific.
U- We’re unique.
V- We’re valuable.
W- We’re wonderful.
X- We’re excellent.
Y- We’re youthful
Z- We’re zany!
*Give each child a letter to illustrate.  Put their pictures together to make a class book.

Hint!  One teacher said her class sang this song for their end of the year program.  Each child held up a letter and said the word.

Friday, February 15, 2019


Many of you already know Angie Bonthius from her fantastic website ilovekindergarten.com. She's been my friend for years and I've always admired her commitment to "kindergarten"! Last week her school embraced GLOBAL SCHOOL PLAY DAY and I asked her to write a blog about it. I had tears in my eyes reading it I was so excited!!! I HOPE this day will grow so all children can have one special memory of a day when SCHOOL WAS PLAY!

On Friday, February 8th the PK-2nd grade school I teach at (and love!), participated in Global School Play Day https://www.globalschoolplayday.com/ for the first time.

When we first heard about Global School Play Day (GSPD), I was really intrigued. I truly believe play is so important to our kids, and worry a lot about what all the time our students spend on screen time is doing to their development. As a staff, we often talk about how kids don't play enough anymore, and that kids need more opportunities to solve problems, resolve conflicts, create, and use their imaginations. We loved the idea of a whole day where students were engaged in unstructured play, and our principal, an amazing early childhood advocate, was all for the idea.

As our GSPD date approached, we were really excited, but a little nervous on the logistics. Would the kids just be CRAZY? Could we get the whole staff on board? What would parents think? We put a committee together and tried to structure a day that didn't have a lot of structure, plan for any problems that might come up, as well as make sure everyone involved had the information they needed.

We sent letters out to parents the week before, explaining our plan and our reasons for wanting to promote more unstructured play in our students. We included a list of things they could bring: board games, legos, dolls, stuffed animals, books, blankets; as well as things they should leave at home (no electronics/technology, no toys with weapons, and if it's really fragile or special, you might not want to bring it.) We also asked them to bring a sack lunch. The feedback we received was extremely positive. We received only positive feedback. Parents were excited.

In the days approaching our GSPD, my kindergartners couldn't wait. They talked a lot about what they wanted to bring from home. One of my students told me every morning that week how she was going to bring her ukulele she just got for Christmas, so the other children could all sit and watch her play. Our School Counselor took time in Guidance class all week to talk with each class about what the day would look like and to answer any questions they might have. The most asked questions were about electronics, and if they could play in the principal's office. The kids were excited.

We had a staff meeting a couple of days before the big day. We gave everyone the schedule for the day and answered lots of questions. A big focus of our meeting was that we really wanted the day to be student led. That meant we were not going to organize the play, or tell them how to play, or step in to solve problems whenever possible. We discussed special needs students, and the role of our special ed associates, and tried to plan for issues that might come up.

We also told the staff that we wanted them playing too! No working on lesson plans, or cutting out lamination. We had to find things to do so we could supervise, but be a little invisible. We didn't want adults playing with kids, we felt that really changed the dynamics. We were going to encourage all students to go find someone to play with. We discovered that a lot of teachers didn't really know what to do with themselves with those restrictions! The teachers were excited (but a little anxious).

When the day finally came, it all just fell into place. As I walked into the building with my craft supplies, books, and games in tow, you could feel the energy fill the building. A parent told me, as she dropped her first grader off, "I don't think she slept last night, she was so excited!".

We started our day in the classrooms. Took attendance and got lunch count for anyone that didn't bring a lunch, had a quick reminder to listen for intercom announcements, to remember to take a bathroom break every now and then, and to put your toys from home back in your locker when you were done with them. We then sent them out the door at 8:15 with boxes of matchbox cars and huge stuffed unicorns in hand.

When I dismissed my class to "go play!", there was a 3 second pause. I think they were still pretty amazed that this day was REALLY going to be all about play. Then suddenly, they all jumped up, and I got lots of hugs, as they headed out the door to find their fun.

It took a little while. For the first 15 minutes or so, the hallways were full as students seemed to just kind of circle the building. Some students, especially our oldest kids, struggled to find a place to "settle", but slowly the hallways cleared as they found somewhere to play.

The preschool and kindergarten classrooms were pretty popular, I assume because they have a lot of things to play with, and also for the "nostalgia" factor. I had a group of 2nd grade girls who came down right away and asked me for some materials they had loved when they were in my class. It was obviously planned as their very first stop. The dramatic play, sensory table, and block center were never empty in my room.

Our gym was set up with rotating activities through out the day that weren't lead by adults, but still kept kids safe. Students played basketball, kicked balls, and did some tumbling. The lunchroom was filled with cardboard boxes and "makedo" tools (www.makedo.com). That was really popular. The art room was open with materials available to draw, paint, and sculpt. One 2nd grade classroom had the lights off and flashlights available. Kids also just sat in groups in the hallways building with marbleworks, playing with dinosaurs, and arguing over board games.

Originally, we had planned to have the playground as an option, but since it was -25 out, we were inside all day.

Our teachers and staff set up card tables outside the classrooms and gathered in groups to color, play games, and do craft projects. We were there to supervise, but not direct the play. In my kindergarten hall, we eventually had a "dolly daycare" set up for when our pint-sized mommies needed a break from carrying them around the building.

We took a break at about 9:30, and had everyone come back to their classrooms for a quick snack and milk break, and to discuss any problems, then sent them on their way again. At 12:00, we did another all call for kids to come back to their classrooms to get their lunch boxes, and sent them off to find somewhere to eat. At 2:30, we announced it was time to stop what they were doing, and help clean up the area they were in. All students were back in their classrooms by 2:45, and ready to load the buses at 3:15.

A few problems came up, including lost toys from home, and lots of kids going in circles looking for "lost" friends. We discovered quickly the kids who were just more comfortable hanging out with the grown ups, and we got pretty good at giving a list of exciting options to our reluctant players ("Have you been in the lunch room yet and seen what people are building?").

I found, in my classroom, it helped my "control issues" to periodically just straighten things up a little bit when kids weren't playing in an area. I closed my loft for safety reasons, and the rice in my sensory table was a bit crazy. The teacher next door to me had a sensory tub of fake snow out, a decision I'm pretty sure she regrets.

Lunch time was a hot mess with lots of milk spills and cupcakes in the carpet. In our planning sessions, we liked the idea of kids being able to eat with friends from other classes and grades or with their siblings. We had good intentions, but it might have been a bit much. There was a group of 2nd grade girls who walked around part of the morning with a clipboard, inviting people to eat lunch in one classroom. There were about 40 students in that room, and that teacher's carpet had to be cleaned, but there was no permanent damage. We've had some discussion about next year limiting the areas of the building they can eat. If they are all eating in the hallways, it would also be easier to supervise who is actually eating, and who didn't even really get started.

I thought clean up at the end of the day was going to be horrible. The lunchroom "cardboard city" looked like a huge messy hamster cage, and there was a lot of materials out in the classrooms. I was pleasantly surprised how quickly it all came back together when everyone pitched in. We almost had more time than we needed for clean up.

The staff had a BLAST. We are deep in the middle of assessment season, and it was wonderful to change the feel of the building for the day. We all loved seeing our students having so much fun. Also, it was refreshing to spend time with the people I work with everyday, in such a relaxed, fun way. I think it was a better bonding activity than any "team building" we've ever attended. We've already talked about projects we want to work on next year.

Most importantly, the kids LOVED it. I've never seen so many smiling faces. There were messes, and arguments, and running in the halls, and a few bathroom accidents, but the smiling, (and exhausted) faces walking out the door at the end of the day made it all well worth it.

We always talk about how we think play is important. Our day was a wonderful way to make sure our students know just how much we value their play. 



Thursday, February 14, 2019


I am jealous of you today.  I really am!  Of all my classroom memories one of my favorites was watching the children open up their little valentines.  "Look, I got a Minnie Mouse!"  "See what Jamie gave me!"  They were so thrilled.  It's a reminder of what I always say about children being happy with plain vanilla.  They don't need the world's fair or another toy or video game. 

Peace and Love to YOU!
You can do this for your students and tell them to pass it on.
Peace (Make sign for peace.)
Love (Make sign for love.)
You (Point to someone.)

Love It Cheer
Make a heart with your hands (index fingers touching at the top and thumbs at the bottom) and extend from your heart.

Air Hug (Jane McPartland)
Say, “Give me an air hug.” Students open arms and pretend to squeeze.

Air Kisses (Beth Jenkins)
Kiss your fingertips numerous times as you scan the class. Blow kisses to all the children. Cross your arms across your chest and rub your arms as you say, “Feel the love.”

Thumbs Up Statements
Have students repeat positive comments as they stick up their thumbs.

I am a kind friend.
I am caring.
I am responsible.
I am polite.
I am a hard worker.

I am a helper.

Finger Play Videos  
If you watched me "sideways" when I did my video on finger plays on FB a week ago my webmaster has corrected me and I am now sitting straight up!


Wednesday, February 13, 2019


Many of you will be having Valentine's Day parties tomorrow. It's important to model and teach children how to thank people who do nice things for you like parties. (These ideas should actually be used daily to thank school helpers, parent volunteers, and classmates.)

Here's a simple song to sing and sign to the tune of "Happy Birthday."

      We (Make “w” and circle around.)
      Say (Index fingers by lips and move out.)
      Thank you (Fingertips on chin and extend out.)
      To. (Touch index fingertips.)
      You. (Point.)
      (Repeat twice)
      We say thank you
      For helping (Open left palm and place right fist
      on it and bring up.)
      We say thank you to you!

Sign Language
Teach children these signs and use them as prompts. (I used to stand behind the person the children needed to thank and make these signs. They thought my class was so "polite"!)

Please palm open on chest and circle around.

Thank you fingers on chin and then down to palm.

Elvis Thank You

Get out your microphone. (Hold a fist by your mouth.)
Wiggle your hips.
(Pretend to twirl your microphone around.)
Thank you! Thank you very much! 

Pictures and Letters
Integrate writing by having the children make thank you cards with various art media.

 "Thumb" Body Thanks You!