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Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Here’s a story that will help children understand why it’s important to be kind to their classmates.  Cut a large heart out of red construction paper and hold it in your lap as you begin to tell the story below:

This is a story about a special friend named (imaginary name).  He always came to school with a smile on his face and a big heart full of love for his classmates.  (Hold up the big heart.)  (Name) listened to his teacher, did his best work, and helped his friends.  However, some of his friends weren’t always so kind.  Joe made fun of his shoes and broke a little of his heart.  (Tear off a piece of the heart and let it drop to the floor.)  Ann said, “I’m saving this seat and you can’t sit here” at story time and broke a little more of his heart.  Sammy wouldn’t share his crayons (tear off a little of the heart) and Sara called him a mean name.  What are some other things that might break his heart?  (Let the children name other things that cause hurt feelings as you let the pieces fall to the floor.)  By the end of the day his heart was all in pieces and it was so sad. 

Who can tell me how to put his heart back together?  What are some kind things you can do for your friends?  As children name different acts of kindness pick the pieces of the heart off the floor.  Glue the pieces together on a poster as a reminder to have a kind heart.  Encourage children to write friends’ names on the poster when they are kind and helpful to them!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Glue copies of rhymes, songs, or finger plays to old CDs or 4 ½” circles.  Place in a gift bag or box and write “Juke Box” on the front.  When you’ve got a few extra minutes pull out the “Juke Box.”  Give a child a pretend quarter to put in the “Juke Box” and choose a song or rhyme.

According to research, most classrooms waste 20% of the day having children wait, line up, wash their hands, clean up, yada yada.  What a super simple way to take advantage of those teachable moments!

Monday, August 29, 2011

New Shoes

We just bought our grandson a new pair of shoes for school.  He's so proud!  Here’s a song we used to sing at circle time when a someone got a new pair of shoes:

New Shoes
(Tune:  This Old Man)
Here’s one foot.               (Stick out one foot.)
Here are two.                  (Stick out the other foot.)
Each is wearing a brand new shoe.  (Tap feet.)
So stand up, turn around, (Child turns around
Dance around the floor.     and dances.)
That’s what these two feet are for!  (Hands on hips and smile.)

Get a spiral notebook and write “New Shoes” on the front.  When children wear a new pair of shoes invite them to draw a picture of their new shoes in the book.

P.S.  One of my 16 month old granddaughter’s first words was “shoes.”  Do you think loving shoes is part of her gene pool?

Sunday, August 28, 2011


You won’t find this in any curriculum guide or state standards, but I believe one of our most important jobs as early childhood educators is to give children hopes and dreams.  Someone has to believe in them! 

My friend’s granddaughter has been going through a difficult time.  Children reflect what goes on in the home, and her parents are going through a nasty divorce.  Anyway, when my friend picked the little girl up from school the child looked so sad.  My friend said, “One day when you are sixteen we are going to go to Paris and buy us some pretty shoes and pretty dresses!”  She said the little girl smiled and her eyes danced.  I don’t know why that touched me so, but it did.  A little word of encouragement can change the world of a child!

It's Sunday and we are grateful that Irene passed by Charleston.  Our grandson K.J. was lucky to get on a plane Friday before the storm hit and we are LOVING having him spend the week before school starts with us.  And his mother is happy not to be cooped up in the house with him as they weather the storm in DC!

You know, I try not to be too political in my blogs, but since it's Sunday I want to share this idea.  You could only use this parting if you were in a Christian school, but it's so sweet!

Parting Words before Children Walk out the Door

Teacher:  May the Lord watch between me and thee.

Children:  While we are absent one from another.

Blessings of JOY to all of you and prayers for those in Irene's path!

Friday, August 26, 2011


It’s hurricane season and those of us who live on the coast hold our breath!  I will certainly lift all of you in Irene’s path up in my prayers.

This is such an uncertain world, and it must be terrifying for young children who don’t understand everything they see and hear.  Teachers get frightened as well, but you have to put on a happy face and be brave.  Children need someone to reassure them that they will be safe and you must remind them that you won’t let anything happen to them.  They are precious and they are brave!

Encourage children to talk about their concerns and accept their feelings.  Let them draw pictures and write stories about storms and things that they are afraid of.  Brainstorm what they can do when they are scared. 

Hold hands and sing a song like “May There Always Be Sunshine.”

Make storm cookies.  These are special cookies that can only be made when there is a storm in the forecast.  And, they can only be consumed when the first raindrop begins to fall!

Storm Cookies

1 cup butter softened
1 ½ cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups quick cooking oats
1 tsp.  baking soda
pinch of salt
2 cups raisins

Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs.  Then add the dry ingredients.
Bake 325 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Hint!  Substitute chocolate chips or cranberries for the raisins.
Substitute coconut for quick oats.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Here's a great line up song to the tune of "Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's off to Work We Go."

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to (lunch, PE, library, etc.)
We go.
With our heads held high
And our arms by our sides
And our belly buttons all in a row.

“Froggie Went a Courting” has always been one of my favorite tunes.  Sing the song below to the tune when you want the children to settle down.

Put your bottom on the rug, uh-huh.  Uh-huh.
Put your bottom on the rug, uh-huh.  Uh-huh.
Put your bottom on the rug
And give yourself a great big hug.  Uh-huh!  Uh-huh!

I received the kindest email from a teacher this morning.  This is why I do what I do and LOVE what I do!

My kindergarten team LOVES the Parent Power Pak! Thank you, thank you! We have been using the Nightly Reading Record Sheet for years and creating our own monthly homework calendar. You have saved us so much work and your ideas are so "family friendly." Dr. Jean, you are the lady who keeps kindergarten from turning into first grade.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I’m all about free, simple, and FUN!  Here are some fantastic websites where you can find some great ideas.

WOW!  This is an amazing site with incredible books that you can download to go with finger plays and rhymes.  I’ve never met Nellie Edge, but we are of the same school – BACK TO OUR ROOTS!  Talk to them, read to them, sing to them!

I love the nursery rhyme books that you can download from this site.  There’s a special link so you can run them in black.

I’d love to meet this teacher and give her a hug for all of her great games and ideas.  You’ll find perfect activities for pre-K and K ready to download and use.

If you’re looking for a way to improve fluency and meet the needs of individual learners in your classroom, then this site is a MUST.  Check out their “Dolch Kit.”  You’ll find ideas for word study booklets, organization, involving parents, and more.

Here's one more website from a wonderful teacher.  You'll have a ball checking out all of  Vanessa Levin's great ideas and printables.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


A friend who is a pre-K teacher always asks her children these questions at the beginning of the year:
1.  How many of you have a television in your home?  How many of you have your own television in your bedroom?
2.  How many of you have a computer in your home?
3.  How many of you have your own pair of scissors? 

Yep!  You’re right!  Most every child has a television or computer, but only a few have a pair of scissors.  Many parents think scissors are dangerous, but they let their children watch violent television programs.  I don’t get it?  Anyway, here’s a great idea to share with parents.

Cutting Tub

Get a plastic tub from the dollar store and fill it with junk mail, catalogs, old greeting cards, scrap paper, etc.  Put a pair of children’s safety scissors in the tub and they can cut, tear, and be creative.  This way you can supervise scissors and encourage cutting at the same time.
More!  Add a hole punch or decorative scissors to the tub.

Table Tubbies

What do you do with those students who always finish their work early?  I loved this idea a teacher shared.  Get five plastic tubs and put different materials in each one.  For example:  puzzles, play dough, stringing beads, stamp pad and letter stamps, books, file folder games, shape blocks and pattern cards, etc.  When children finish early, they can get a tub and complete the activity. 

If your children are grouped at tables, you could do a tub for each table with several items for the children to choose from.  Create 4 or 5 tubs and then rotate them each week.  That way you’ll only have to prepare the tubs once a month.


Here’s a special request.  I know many of you took photographs at conferences I presented at this summer.  If you would send one to me or my webmaster I would like to use them on my home page for September.  Thanks!

Monday, August 22, 2011


You will need a letter size envelope and sentence strips cut in 10” sections to make this game.  Seal the envelope and then snip off the left hand side.  Write children’s names on the sentence strips and glue their picture to the end.  Insert sentence strips in the envelope and challenge children to blend the sounds and predict who it could be as you slowly pull out one letter at a time.

*Print color words, number words, or other words and glue a picture clue on the right hand side so children can confirm their predictions.

*Write simple sentences for children to read.  (Google images is a great help for graphics.)

*Write math facts and answers on the sentence strips so children can self correct as they pull and peek.

*Use for alphabetical order, numerical order, etc.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


I was looking for something in an old file and I luckily came across this inspirational thought that Leah Becks shared with me several years ago.  It seemed like a perfect blog for the beginning of the school year.

I have a great job in the universe of occupations.
What do I do?  I’m a “star polisher.”
It’s a very important job.  If you want to know how important, just go out at night and look at the stars twinkling and sparkling.  You see, I’m a teacher, an educator, a mentor.  The stars are the children in my class.  My job is to take them – in whatever shape they come – and shine and buff them and then send them out to take their places as bright twinkling beacons in the sky.  They come into my room in all shapes and sizes.  Sometimes they’re bent, tarnished, dirty, crinkly or broken.  Some stars are cuddly and soft.  Some are prickly and thorny.  As I buff and polish, I train and teach my little stars.  I tell them that the world cannot do without them.  I tell them they can be the brightest, shiniest stars in the sky and the world will be a better place because of them.  Each night as I look at the sky, I’m reminded of my very important job and awesome responsibility.  Then I get my soft buffing cloth and my bottle of polish in preparation for tomorrow…for my class of little stars.

May all of your little stars twinkle this year because of YOU!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Oh, happy day!

Good morning!  It's Saturday!  Yeah!  I'm home drinking my coffee and it's going to be a great day!  I have LOVED meeting so many new teachers this summer, but I'm ready to be home for a few weeks.  

This week I had the opportunity to visit Fergus Falls, Minnesota. The drive from Minneapolis over rolling hills and past cornfields reminded me of "Oh, beautiful for spacious skies..."  Is this a great country or what?  Every once in a while we need to stop and remind ourselves of all the wonderful things in America instead of focusing on the negative!

Anyway, an email from a teacher this morning asked about a song to get children to sit on the carpet.  Here are a few ideas:

Have a Seat  (“Shortnin’ Bread”)

Everybody have a seat, have a seat, have a seat.
Everybody have a seat on the floor.
Not on the ceiling, not on the door.
Everybody have a seat on the floor!

Note:  If you want children to sit in a chair, then sing:
Everybody have a seat, have a seat, have a seat.
Everybody have a seat on your chair.
Not on the ceiling, not in the air.
Everybody have a seat on your chair.

Sit Down Chant

 Clap your hands.  (Clap 3 times slowly.)
Stomp your feet.         (Stomp slowly 3 times.)
Put your bottom         (Children sit down quietly.)
in your seat!

Criss Cross

Criss cross     (Children sit on the floor and cross their legs.)
Be your own boss.  (Children cross their arms like a boss.  Remind them to be the “boss” of themselves.)

Secret Signals

Explain to your students that you are going to have some “secret signals” that only your class will know.  Here they are:

1 – Whenever the teacher says “one” everyone should sit down quietly.
2 – When the teacher says “two” everyone should put their hands in their laps.
3 – When the teacher says “three” everyone should smile.

You can add other signals, such as “four” line up at the door, or “five” hands by sides.


Keep a flashlight handy and use it to “shine” on behaviors you want the children to model.  “Spotlight on a quiet listener sitting quietly on the floor.”  “Spotlight on a good helper pushing in the chairs.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Super Star Class

Super Star Cadence
(Insert the name of your school, grade level, teacher, etc. in this chant.)

(School), (School) is the best!        (Children repeat each line.)
(School)  is better than all the rest!
We can read and we can write
And our letters are out of sight.
We can count and we can add
And that makes our teacher glad!
We make new friends and follow rules.
Getting along is really cool.
We can learn and we can play
And we prove it everyday!
(School), (School) is the best!
(School)  is better than all the rest!
We are super, yes we are.
Look out world, here comes a star.

You can also go to my website (, click on videos, and then click on “Back to School Songs” to see me demonstrate lots of activities to start your year with a song.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Zipadee Doo Dah Bags

You are going to LOVE this idea!  It’s a quick and easy way to engage all the children in your classroom as you review information.

Every child will need a zipper bag (Hefty One Zip Click Gallon Size) and an answer sheet.  Cut paper 10” x 8 ½” and write letters, numerals, words, colors, shapes, etc. along the left side.  Adapt the answer sheet to specific skills and needs of your class.  For example, if your children are struggling with the numerals 11-20, then write the numerals 11-20.  Hint!  You will have to roll the paper a little to fit it in the bag.

When you have a few extra minutes ask the children get out their “zipadee doo dah” bags.  As the teacher calls out a word, letter, math fact, etc. the children slide the zipper to the correct answer and hold up their bags.  The teacher can quickly glance around the room and check their responses.   (It would actually be OK with me if they looked at someone else’s if they didn’t know the answer.  It might help them learn!)

Last week a teacher suggested making a number line on the answer sheet so children could zip to the “answer” as the teacher called out math facts or number stories.

Good Morning Chant -Cheryl L. Hines, Kansas City, MO, Schools
(Clap your hands as you say this chant.)
We are a family. 
We are a family.  (Children repeat.)
A classroom family.
A classroom family. (Children repeat.)
You are my family.  (Point to all your friends.)
You are my family.  (Point to all your friends.)
I’m glad you’re here.  (Hug self.)
I’m glad you’re here.  (Hug self.)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dancing in the Rain!

In life, it’s not about waiting
for the storm to pass over.
It’s about dancing in the rain!

I feel like doing a little “preaching” today!  You don’t have to read this if you don’t want to.

The quote above is one to carry in your hearts this coming school year.  There will be things that happen that will make you sad and set you back – parent complaints, disagreements with colleagues, administrator’s expectations.  You’ve got to shut your door and sing away your troubles!  Remember, it’s the children!  Put them and their happiness first and other things will fall in place.

One of my models is Dr. Fran Welch who is the Dean of the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance at the College of Charleston.  I call her the “Queen of Deans” because she’s one of the finest administrators I’ve ever known.  Fran once told me, “I never hold a grudge.  I just move on.” 

So, when it storms this year, dance in the rain and just move on!

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Kids love clipboards.  I guess they feel important when they carry one around.  You can make clipboards from corrugated cardboard and a butterfly clip.  Cut the cardboard any size you want (9” x 12” works well) and let the kids decorate with markers or crayons.  Attach paper to the clipboard with a butterfly clip.  You can use these on field trips, on a nature walk, or for classroom activities such as writing the room, taking notes, surveys, interviews, drawings, etc.  If you laminate a piece of white cardstock then the kids can use it like a wipe off board with dry erase markers.

Erin McCullough came to the workshop I did in Orlando yesterday and shared a great idea to use with "I've Got the Whole Alphabet in My Mouth."  She bought stove top covers at the dollar store and drew a face on them.  The children put the magnetic letters in the mouth as they sing.

Dea Dea Johnson had attended a Sea Lab workshop where she learned this chant to help children with the writing process.
Who knows the writing process?  (Open and close arms and clap as you step from side to side.
Who knows the writing process?  (Children repeat.)
I know the writing process.
I know the writing process.  (Children repeat.)

First step.  (Hold up 1 finger.)
First step.  (Children repeat.)
Brain storm.  (Touch your head and wiggle to the ground.)
Brain storm.  (Children repeat.)

Second step...(Hold up 2 fingers.) 
Write it down...(Write in your hand with finger and wiggle bottom.)

Third step...(Hold up 3 fingers.)
Edit your work...(Shake index finger authoritatively.)

Fourth step...(Hold up 4 fingers.)
Publishing...(Brush hands out in front of you.)

OH, YEAH!  (Hands on hips and wiggle with an attitude.)

Cori Goldstein and Andrea Howell TRIED to teach me how to do this hand clap game.  I definitely need to practice!
Big Mac
Filet o' fish
Quarter pounder
French fries
Icy Coke
Thick shake
and apple pie
and the dish ran away with the spoon
and the cow jumped over the moon
and now you know the tune...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sky Writing (a.k.a. Invisible Writing)

Having children write in the air is a great way to practice strokes (lines, circles, slants, pushes), shapes, letters, and numerals.  You can have them extend one arm and stick out their index finger and middle finger.  The teacher demonstrates as the children follow along. 
Note!  If you are facing the children you will need to reverse your movements.

Children will also enjoy using a writing wand.  Tape several strips of colored tissue paper (1 ½ “ x 18”) to a paint stick or jumbo craft stick.  Children model the movements that the teacher makes in the air.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Shape Crackers and Applesauce!

Shape Crackers

Here’s a terrific idea from my friend Pamela Pounds.  Pamela sends a note to parents the first week of school asking them to send crackers to help the children learn their shapes.   (Ritz - circles, Club crackers - rectangles, Doritos - triangles, Wheat Thins - squares, and Town House crackers - ovals.)  The parents are happy to send the crackers and they usually last for a month.  Pamela says it’s not only a fun way to talk about shapes, but it’s nice for children who don’t have a snack.

I thought of several other additional math concepts you could reinforce:
*Give children two crackers and ask them to describe how they are different.
*Have children eat one half of a cracker. 
*Give children a square cracker and challenge them to nibble it into a circle.
*Give children two like crackers.  Ask, “Are they the same amount?”  Next, have them break one of the crackers into little pieces.  Ask, “Are they the same amount now?”  You’ll be surprised at their response.  This is called conservation of quantity and is an experiment Piaget used to demonstrate developmental stages.
*Give children a sheet of paper.  Pass out a square cracker to each child and tell the children to draw what it looks like on their paper.  Next, give them a circle shaped cracker and ask them to draw it.  Continue with other shapes.  It’s a fun way to practice pre-writing skills.

Pamela Pounds also shared this transition activity.  She went to the school cafeteria and got the label off a can of applesauce.  She glued it to paper and added a stick.  When she wants the children to sit “criss cross applesauce” she holds up the sign.  It’s a great way to get children quiet and they are doing “logographic” reading and making print connections.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Llucky Me!

Lucky me to get to share with so many teachers across the United States this summer!  Yesterday's conference for the Osage Nation Child Care Council was AMAZING!  One of the organizers commented, "We value you and appreciate you.  That's why we worked so hard to give you this special day."  And they did work hard - and it was a special day!  Can you imagine wrapping up a gift for each participant so they all won a door prize?  They pulled out all the bells and whistles to give the teachers who came a great day to start the new year.  And, they awarded me with a ceremonial blanket which I will treasure!

Tori Bennett shared this cheer to the tune of "We Will Rock You."
(Stomp, stomp, clap.)
You just (stomp, stomp, clap)
You just (stomp, stomp, clap)
Rocked it!  (Strum your guitar.)

Angel Evers said she wrote letters, numbers, shapes, words, etc. on her carpet for the children to trace, walk on, hop, etc.  Angel said to use light colored chalk and it will just disappear by the end of the day.

Shannon Hamilton suggested chanting the letters of the alphabet to "Brown Bear, Brown Bear."  For example, "Letter A, letter A, what do you see?  I see letter B looking at me...."

Kim Ward uses the "Hickety Pickety Bumblebee" chant for spelling.
Hickety pickety bumblebee.
Who can spell want for me?  (w-a-n-t)
Hickety pickety bumblebee,
Who can stomp want for me? (Stomp each letter as you spell.)
Continue spelling want with other motions...clap, hop, snap, etc.

Some of you may have heard me comment that I am an "antique" teacher.  In my 40 year journey as an educator I have been priviledged to learn many songs, stories, games, and ideas that I can share with you.  Yesterday someone mentioned that I was not an antique - I am "mid century modern."  Whatever!  I still love what I do!  Thanks for listening to me!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


It's a beautiful morning here in Tulsa and I think I'm going to stand in the parking lot and sing, "Ooookkkaaalllahhhoommmaaaa!!!" at the top of my lungs!  Just kidding!  Anyway, I'm excited about sharing at the Osage Tribe tomorrow, but today I have a smile because I don't have to get on a plane!  :)

Here are some ideas that I collected in my backpack this week.  Enjoy!

A Fuzzy Little Caterpillar  (Leanne Hutchison, Jackson, TN)
(Tune:  "I Had a Little Turtle")

A fuzzy little caterpillar wiggled right by me.   (Wiggle index finger.)
He wiggled long.  (Wiggle finger away.)
He wiggled short.  (Wiggle finger close.)
He wiggled right at me.  (Wiggle finger at your face.)
I put him in a box.  (Cup hands.)
"Don't go away I said!"  (Point finger.)
But when I opened up the box
There was a butterfly instead!  (Clasp thumbs and wiggle fingers like a butterfly.)

*You can adapt this song for "I had a little tadpole...I put him in a jar...  Don't go away I said. . But when I opened up the jar a frog hopped out instead!"

Chant Sight Words  (Becky Ashton, Indianapolis, IN)

HE  - muscles up and say "h"
         muscles up and say "e"
         flex muscles and say "HE"

SHE - flick hair on "s"
         flick hair on "h"
         flick hair on "e"
         hands on hips and say "SHE"

See You Around  (Sorry, I didn't get this teacher's name!)

See you around.  (Take index finger and draw an invisble circle in the air.)
If you don't turn square.  (Index fingers touch and then go in opposite directions to form a square.)

Yummy Words  (Sarah Kilfoil Indianpolis, IN)

Let each child select a favorite word - yummy word!  It can be a favorite food, something they like to do, etc.  Place the words in a pocket chart or word wall and use for attendance.

Sarah teaches at a Christian school and helps her children learn their right hand by calling it their "praying hand" because it's the hand they use to make the sign of a cross.

Surprise Can  (Julie Wiegman & Anne Greer, St. Jude Catholic School)

Each week place a different letter on top of a paint can.  (You can purchase an empty paint can at Lowe's or Home Depot.)  Select one child each night to take home the surprise can.  Ask parents to assist their child in finding four items at home that begin with the letter.  Put the four itmes in the can along with clues about each object.  At school the next day, the child (with help from the teacher) gives clues as classmates try to guess what the objects are.   Example:  This is something that is a fruit. This is round and red.  It grows on a tree.  A-Apple!

Onsets and Rimes  (Jennifer Evans, Muncie, IN)

Use plastic blinds and cut 2 slits horzontally on the left side of one blind about 1" apart.  The cuts should be about 1" from the left side of the blind.  Take another blind and use it as the slide.  Write the rime on the blind with the slits and the onsets on the blind that you slide through.

Back to Back  (I couldn't find the teacher's name who gave this to me?)

This is a great brain break that a teacher in Indiapolis demonstrated with us.  Every child needs a partner and touches body parts as the teacher calls out:
back to back  (touch backs)
shoulder to shoulder (touch shoulders)
elbow to elbow
knee to knee
head to head
wrist to wrist
feet to feet
hip to hip
Continue calling out vaious body parts...
End with "bottom to chair" as children sit down!

Positive Attention Grabber (Erin Hensley)

When Erin wants to focus her children's attention she says:
Be as loving as you can
As often as you can
For as many peopl as you can
As long as you live!

Can You Dig It?  (Rachel Lawrence, Marion City Schools)

Hide magnetic numerals in a sand table.  Each student is given a sheet with math facts appropriate to their level.  During math centers they have to do their facts and then dig out the answers (magnetic letters) in the sand.
*You can also hide letters and have children spell words.

Spelling Trays (Rachel Lawrence)

Prepare "spelling trays" in plastic drawers.  Children choose a tray and then take it to their desk and spell words using one of the materials below:
*Wikki sticks
*magnetic letters
*puzzle letters
*black light pens (security pen with black light key chain)
*alphabet stickers
*alphabet blocks
*dry erase board

Monday, August 1, 2011

Back to School Songs

Augst lst!  Say it isn't so!  Summer is chugging along and it's time for a back to school song!

Check out my August activities on my website ( for some tunes to get you going.  You'll also be able to see a video of me demonstrating the songs.

"People sing because they are happy, and they are happy because they sing!"