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Monday, April 30, 2012


Here’s a simple activity if you’ve got a few extra minutes before lunch or during other transitions.  Children will develop listening skills, auditory memory, as well as social skills.

Directions:   Have children sit in a circle.  Explain that you will hum a tune.  If they know the tune they can smile at you.  When most of the class is smiling, say, “one, two, two, three tell.”  All the children say the answer at the same time.  Continue humming tunes as children try and identify the songs. 

*Let children take turns humming tunes as their classmates try to name that tune!

Here are some familiar tunes to get you started:
Farmer in the Dell            She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain      
Yankee Doodle                  Twinkle Little Star        
This Old Man                    Old MacDonald
BINGO                             Jingle Bells                                            
Happy Birthday                 Itsy Bitsy Spider        
Row Your Boat                   If You’re Happy and You Know It        
Mulberry Bush                   Ring Around the Rosie                                   
My Country                       Muffin Man                 
Baa Baa Black Sheep         Hickory Dickory
Skip to My Lou                  I’m a Little Teapot                                   
3 Blind Mice                      My Bonnie

Sunday, April 29, 2012


You know, sometimes things just happen for a reason.  Several weeks ago when I was driving home from North Carolina I heard about a documentary called “Alive Inside.”  We have always known that music is stored in long term memory and that’s why it’s such a powerful learning tool.  However, now they are finding they can reach deep inside people with dementia and tap into their feelings and memories.  Dan Cohen made individualized iPods for patients loaded with music from their youth.  The results were ASTOUNDING and you should do a search of “Alive Inside” and check it out for yourself.  If you know anyone suffering from dementia, this could be a way to put a smile on their faces.

I jokingly tell people in my workshops that I’m the one they are going to want to be next to in the “home” because I have so many songs and rhymes stored in my brain.  Maybe this isn’t a joke after all!!!

Music and movement are the most natural and joyful ways to help children learn.  And the good news is that you don’t have to be a great musician to sing with children.  You just have to be enthusiastic!  As Pete Seeger said, “Music is a way to help us love each other.”

So, every day this week start and end your day with a song.  Shut your door and sing every chance you get.  You’ll not only be helping your students brains grow, you’ll be giving them a treasure that will be stored in their memories the rest of their lives!!!  Lucky us to be able to touch a life in such a magical way!

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Here’s an idea that is a perfect application from Zull (Repeat!  Repeat!  Repeat!) and Biffle (Mirror!).

On a small box write “Voice Box.”  On index cards write some of the different “voices” below. When you want to reread stories, say the alphabet, read the word wall, count to 100, and practice other skills, let children reach in the “voice box” and choose a voice.
Here are some different voices you could include:

Three Bears – Read papa bear style (with a deep voice), mama bear style (with a prissy voice), and baby bear style ( with a wee voice).  You can even do granny bear where you pull in your lips like you are toothless.

Emotions – Read text with different emotions, such as happy, sad, angry, sleepy, etc.

Underwater – Put your index finger between your lips and vibrate as you read.

With a Cold – Children hold their nose and read as if they have a stuffed nose.

Martian – Make antennae with index fingers over your head. “Beep” for the syllables in the words.

Rainbow – Open hands and place on the left side of your body.  Swing up and across the body in an arc as you read each line.

Charlie Brown’s Teacher - Children mouth words as they go, “Wa-wa-wa.”

Lip Sinc - Mouth the words.

Pirate         - Read out of the side of your mouth.  Grrr, matie!

Mouse – Read with a high, squeaky voice.

Monster – Read with a deep, gruff voice.

Turtle – Read very, very slowly.

Robot – Extend arms and move them like a robot as you read like a robot.

Cartoon Characters -  Read like “Fred Flintstone” (bounce up and down),
Scooby Doo (Ruff!  Ruff!), Mickey and Minnie and other characters children suggest.

Attitude – Hands on hips and roll eyes.

Opera – Stretch out arms and sing dramatically like an opera singer.

Animals – Speak with animal voices such as cats, dogs, horses, sheep, etc.

Hint!  When counting to 100 choose a different voice for each set of ten.

Note:  You can download these fluency cards on my website:

Friday, April 27, 2012


Are you out of ideas for independent reading and writing?  Here are some suggestions for simple predictable books that your students can make.  And, talk about differentiated instruction!  With blank books all children can be challenged at whatever level they are on.  Make a simple book by folding two sheets of paper in half and stapling.  Children write the beginning of the sentence on each page and then fill it in.  They can illustrate the book with drawings or pictures cut from magazines or catalogs.  Here are possible topics:
                  I can…
                  I like…
                  I don’t like…
                  I want…
                  I see…
                  Look!  Look!
                  I wish…
                  When I grow up…
                  I can read…
                  I know…
Challenge children to use as many words in their sentences as they are in age.
Ask children to use as many colors in their drawings as they are in age.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


(Tune:  “Farmer in the Dell”)

Z - e - r - o spells zero.  (Hold up fist.)
Z - e - r - o spells zero.
Zero is our hero.
Z - e - r - o spells zero.

O – n – e spells one.  (Hold up 1 finger.)
O – n – e spells one. 
Spelling numbers is such fun.
O – n – e spells one.

T –w –o spells two.  (Hold up 2 fingers.)
T –w –o spells two.
I can spell and so can you.
T – w – o spells two.

Three – It’s as easy as can be….

Four – I can spell even more…

Five – I can spell and I can jive…

Six – Number words are a trick…

Seven – We’re so hot we are sizzlin’…

Eight – We are smart.  We spell great…

Nine – Spelling good and feeling fine…

Ten – You’ve spelled “ten” and that’s “The End”…

*HINT!  Make a class book where children illustrate the set for each 
number word.
Give children flash cards of number words to hold up as you sing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Reading through the notes teachers share at my workshops is like finding a prize in a box of Cracker Jacks!  Look through this list and I guarantee you’ll find something to add a sparkle to your day!

Funtime Center  (Michele Montgomery)
Ask parents to send in cereal boxes.  Cut off the back and laminate.  Place in a reading bin with dry erase markers and allow students to work the puzzles if they finish their work early.
*You can also collect kids’ menus from restaurants and laminate.

Pick Up Sticks Sight Words  (Lesley Whitman)
Write sight words on popsicle sticks.  The children use wooden skewers to try and pick up sticks without moving any of the other sticks.  Encourage them to read the word on the stick.
*You could make a similar game with letters, math facts, etc.

Magazine Pictures  (Lesley Whitman)
Cut out odd magazine pictures and glue them on cardstock and laminate.  For the pre-k children pass out a pictures and let each child talk about their picture.  It’s a great way for making inferences and encouraging complete sentences.
*In kindergarten put several pictures in a basket and let children draw a picture and then write about it.

Baby Fish Fingers (Deborah Morales)
Tell the children that their thumb and index finger are their baby fish.  When they need to open anything they should use their baby fish.  (Works like a charm for ketchup packets.)
At circle time tell them to put their baby fish in their fish bowl (hole created by sitting cross legged).

Cutting Shoebox  (Chris Lance)
To encourage children to practice cutting at home ask parents to fill a shoebox with junk mail and safety scissors.  Keep the box on top of the refrigerator and bring it down when parents are busy cooking dinner.

Bankrupt (Katie Kaylor)
Glue plastic coins to the end of craft sticks.  Write “bankrupt” on one stick.  Place the sticks in a can with “Bank” or “ATM” written on it.  Children sit in a circle and take turns passing the can and drawing sticks.  Each time a student draws a stick they must name the coin and tell how much it’s worth or it goes back in the can.  The game ends when someone draws the “bankrupt” stick and they have to give all their money back to the bank.  Children add up the amounts on their sticks and compare who is the richest, poorest, etc.

Stretching Sounds (Maria Bristal)
Buy little plastic slinkies at the dollar store and let the children use these to stretch out words.

Write Your Name on Your Paper  (Christy Jones)
Sing this song to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
Write your name on your paper,
Write your name.
Write your name on your paper,
Write your name.
If you don’t write your name,
Then they all look the same.
Write your name on your paper,
Write your name.

You can also sing:
If your eyes are on me clap your hands.
If your eyes are on me clap your hands.
If your eyes are on me then it’s me that you see.
If your eyes are on me clap your hands.

Greetings  (Jennifer M. Britt)
Greetings are so important and many people use an apron with different types of greetings for kids to choose.  An adaptation to this would be to make a wheel (like Wheel of Fortune) and use picture symbols to represent the different handshakes (biker, fisherman, butterfly, thumb kiss, Spiderman, hand hug, farmer, etc.) so children could spin the wheel.  If you used Velcro you could change the greetings throughout the year.
*You could also use a wheel and spinner for cheers, songs, etc.

Bike Safety (Jennifer Britt)
Make a poster of what the children need before they ride their bike.  For example:
  1. Driver’s license
  2. Helmet
  3. When backing up watch for friends
  4. Etc.
Children could make a license with their picture, date of birth, address, eye color, hair, address, etc.

Snowman Counting  (Debbie Stowe)
You will need cups, cotton balls, and tweezers for this activity.  Draw snowmen on cups and write the numerals 1-10 on their tummies.  Children use tweezers to pick up snowballs (cotton balls) because they are too cold.  Can they place the correct number of snowballs in each cup?
*You can also use the snowmen to sequence numerals, seriate by size, etc.
*Make a similar “Pot of Gold” game with salsa black bowls and gold coins.

Apples up on Top Book (Debbie Stowe)
Place a picture of the child’s head on the bottom of the last page.  Cut 10 pages and staple on top of the child’s head.  Children draw apples to illustrate “One apple up on top” on the first page.  “Two apples up on top” on the second page…
Children can draw red, green, or yellow apples and can make different patterns with the apples.

Where Is Pumpkin?  (Debbie Stowe)
You can use a pumpkin, snowball, shamrock, or any seasonal shape to help children learn positional words. 
Attach a foam circle pumpkin with yarn to the front of a book and store in a pocket.  On different pages have a seasonal picture and write “under the haystack,” “beside the moon,” “between the trees,” “above the fence,” “on the house,” “behind the cat,” etc.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?  (Jessica Summer)
After reading HAVE YOU FILLED A BUCKET TODAY several times brainstorm ways to “fill buckets.”  Purchase mini Chinese food boxes at a dollar store.  Print each child’s name under a bucket that you’ve stapled to a bulletin board.   Each time the teacher or a classmate catches a student being a “bucket filler” they get a pompom added to their bucket.  This encourages positive behavior in everyone.

Paint Paddles and Clothespins (Mary Jane Long)
Write numerals vertically down a paint paddle.  When the teacher says, “Show me 4,” the children attach the clothespin to the numeral and hold up their answer.  You can use paddles for addition, subtraction, and other math skills.
*Make paddles with letters, shapes, etc.

Rotten Apple  (Mary Jane Long)
Use die cut apples for this game.  On the apples write letters, numbers, words, or whatever skill you are working on.  On a few apples write “rotten apple.”  Children take turns choosing apples and identifying the information.  They must put all their apples back if they pick the “rotten apple.”
*Adapt throughout the year with a broken heart in February, cracked egg in April, melting snowman in January, etc.

Buddy Sticks for Differentiated Instruction (Cindy Boyer)
Put like stickers on the bottom of jumbo craft sticks.  You will need as many sticks as there are students in your classroom.  Take two cans and separate the sticks into the cans.  Have higher level students (or English speakers) pull from one can and lower level students pull from the other can.  Children will be randomly matched, but also in pairs where they can help each other.

Environmental Print ABC Book (Ruth Ann Tensi)
Over Christmas or spring break ask students to make an ABC book with advertisements, napkins, photos of products, restaurant logos, etc.  Can they find something for each letter?

Hey There Neighbor!  (Ruth Ann Tensi)
Hey, there, neighbor!           (shake hands)
What do you say?            (switch hands)
It’s going to be a great day.  (reach up diagonally)
Greet your friends.           (high 10’s)
And boogie on down.         (shake bottom while bending knees)
Give ‘em a bump           (bump hips gently)
And turn around.                 (turn around in place)
*Count to ten while they find a new partner.

Hang Those Letters Down  (Kate Barnes)
Boys and girls, some letters stand tall.             (arms up)
Some sit on the wall                               (arms straight out)
And some fall.
I’ll show you what to do with those letters in a minute.
Let’s go through the alphabet.
a, b, c, d, e, f
Hang those bottoms down down           (Sing to the tune of “100 Bottles
Hang those bottoms down.           of Pop on the Wall” as you
Some letters stand tall,                      boogie down.)
Some sit on the wall,
Some hang those bottoms down.
h, i,
j?!                                                   (Repeat above chant.)

Pencil Grip (Ann Blackard)
Break crayons in half and children will use three fingers.  Golf pencils also encourage children to use three fingers.

Author/Illustrator Party (Denise Catoe)
At the end of the year have an author and illustrator party using children’s individual books they’ve made in the classroom.  It’s a way to celebrate writing throughout the year.  Parents are invited to attend and cookies and drinks are served.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Teachers are so generous to share ideas with me at my seminars.  However, translating their notes isn’t always that easy as you can tell from the photo. 
These ideas are almost like seeds that you can take and grow into your own activities.  As a teacher once remarked, “Teachers don’t steal ideas.  They harvest ideas!”  Help yourself to this garden of ideas!

Hidden Words – (Melanie Goodwin)
Place sight words inside Easter eggs and hide.  Children have to write a sentence with the words they find in the eggs.

National Geographic Kids Website (Melanie Goodwin)
This site has amazing text, pictures, and videos and is great for teaching science and informational text.  Use it as a springboard for writing.

Pizza Hut – Book It!  (Melanie Goodwin)
You can sign up and get a booklet of free coupons for a personal pan pizza.  No purchase required.  Great for a monthly reading reward!

Super Visors (Melanie Goodwin)
Two children are selected to be “advisors” for the day.  During guided reading/workstations students ask a partner or one of the “advisors” before sitting in the “waiting chair” to ask the teacher.  “Ask three, then me!”  They have to wait until the teacher can get to them and often leave because they figure it out while waiting.  This really helps eliminate disruptions during guided reading!

Mr. Tuttles (Karen Campbell)
Take a mirror and put a hat/head on top and add arms and legs to create “Mr. Tuttles.”  Children tell Mr. Tuttles their tattles!

Altoid Boxes (Joan Watts)
Fill Altoid boxes with plastic letters and use for small group work.  Have children pour out their letters and then spell “rat” in the box.  Tell them to close the lid so their neighbor can’t see.  Share when everyone is done.

Hallway Chant (Nikkie Grabeel)
I had a little wiggle
Deep down inside of me.
I tried to make it stop
But it wouldn’t let me be.
So I pulled that wiggle out
And threw it like a ball
And now (teacher’s name) knows
I am ready for the hall!
*A secret student is picked from craft sticks and the line leader and caboose watch the secret student in the hall.  If that student is well behaved the class gets a tally mark.  If the tally marks beat the teacher on Friday the class earns extra center time.
This is a fun website and it’s free!  Lots of games, cards the kids can make, etc.

Class T-Shirts  (Dandridge Elementary)
This school uses ice cream money to provide a free T-shirt for each child in the school.  Each class has a different color so kids are easy to spot when they wear their shirts on a field trip.  The back of each shirt says, “Be a buddy, not a bully!”

End of Year Gift (Julie Bright)
Ask each child to bring in a pillowcase.   Use a T-shirt transfer to put this saying on the pillowcases:
         Now I lay me down to sleep.
         I’ll count hands instead of sheep.
         Of all the friends I made
         In (teacher’s name) first grade.
The students use fabric paint to put their handprint and write their name on all their friends’ pillowcases.

Collaborate and Listen (Mandy Hitson)
Use this idea from Vanilla Ice to get kids’ attention.
         Teacher says – All right, STOP!
         Children respond – Collaborate and listen!

I Won’t Pick My Nose No More (Dorothy Zentz)
(Tune:  “It Ain’t Gonna Rain No More”)
I can pick my friends.
I can pick up my toys.
I can pick my coat off the floor.
I can pick up my feet to a marching beat
But I won’t pick my nose no more.
No I won’t.  I say I won’t.
No, I won’t pick my nose no more.
I’ll use a tissue just watch and see
And you’ll be so proud of me!

Scooby-Doo Game (Mary Marsionis)
On index cards write letters, shapes, word wall words, etc.  Put Scooby-Doo stickers on some of the cards.  Students pick a card and say the letter, word, etc.  If a student gets Scoopy-Doo everyone says, “Rut row!”  At the end roll a die and the kids with that many cards are “winners!”

B and D Discrimination  (Mary Marsionis)
Children use left hand to make a “b” and right hand to make a “d.”  Say “big dog” to remember “b” and “d.”

Insects (Katheryn Lambert)
(Tune:  “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”)
Head (point to head)
Thorax (point to chest)
Abdomen, abdomen  (rub torso).
Head, thorax, abdomen, abdomen.
Two antennae (wiggle index fingers by temples)
And six legs (three fingers extended on each side)
Head, thorax, abdomen!
*Use the concept of two antennae and six legs to discuss symmetry and odd and even numbers.  “We know our insects need six legs.  Should I use one leg on this side and 5 legs on the other?  No!  It would be all lopsided!”

Swat (Whitney Rhyne)
Write letters, words, etc. on chart paper or board.  Have 2 children come up at a time to race and find the letter the teacher calls out.  Each child is given a fly swatter and the first one to “swat” it wins a point for their team.

Who Let the Letter Out?  (Whitney Rhyne)
Have the class squat down as you begin they song.  They get to “pop up” when the letter that their name begins with comes up in the song.  This is great for beginning sounds and teaches the kids what letters their friends’ names begin with.

Vacuum Cleaners  (Whitney Rhyne)
If you have a mess of paper on the floor allow the children to become vacuum cleaners.  They crawl or slide around on the floor making noises and picking up the trash.  They will love it!

Friendship Tools  (Liz Watras)
Use sign language ( to teach children these words:
When they have a problem they can use the tools and signs to work through the conflict.

Story Sticks (Robin Davis)
Use giant paint sticks for retelling stories.  Put Velcro at the end of the sticks and then attach pictures.  These could also be used as song visuals.

Donut Vowels (Robin Davis)
Make donuts out of foam and decorate with markers.  Write letters on each side of the donut.  Next, put a vowel in the middle of a small paper plate.  Children place the donut hole over the vowel and sound out the word.

Buddy Time (Robin Davis)
Put matching pompoms in a can and let each child draw a pompom.  They match pompoms to find their buddy.

Travel Soap Containers (Robin Davis)
Use travel soap containers to store crayons, magnetic letters, sight words, etc.

Word Families (Paulina Newman)
Write endings (rimes) on the board.  The students choose a beginning sound and place it in front of the ending.  If it makes sense, write the word at the top of the board.  If it does not make sense place it in a trash can on the bottom of the board.

Ice Cream Surprise Game  (Bobbie Blevins)
Use ice cream cone cut outs (available at the Dollar Tree) for this activity.  Write “Who?” “What?” “Where?” “When?” “Why?” on the back of the cones.  Hold these up in a fan shape so children can pick one and tell that part of the story.  You can also write “verb,” “noun,” “adjective” on the ice cream cones.  Children pick a page in the book and identify that part of speech in a sentence.

Tablecloths (Angie Barnett)
You can use flannel back tablecloths for everything.  They are sturdy and won’t slip on the carpet.  Just have the kids take off their shoes. 
Keypad – If you draw a keypad children can jump their phone number, cafeteria number, or use for number recognition.
Popcorn Words – Write words or letters on popcorn shapes.  Children jump around identifying letters or words.
Keyboard – Make a keyboard and use for letter recognition or spelling words.
Graph – Draw out a bar graph and use or comparisons.

Hall Chant (Theresa Malone)
My hands are hanging by my side
I’m standing straight and tall.
My eyes are looking straight ahead.
I’m ready for the hall.

Days of the Week (Renee Nicolo)
Hang the days of the week on a clothesline.  Put two clothespins on the current day.  You can also use the clothesline for letters, numbers, etc.

Roll Call (Renee Nicolo)
Call the roll in different languages.  “Buenas dias.”  “Guten morgen.”  “Bonjour.”  “Gua-cha.”

Put Your Finger on a Wall  (Sharon Howard)
(Tune:  “If You’re Happy”)
Use this idea to keep students in line going down the hall.
Put your finger on a wall, on a wall.
Put your finger on a wall, on a wall.
You’re (number) feet tall
You’re big or small.
Put your finger on a wall, on a wall.

Itsy Bitsy Spider (Sharon Howard)
After singing the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” let children change what kind of spider it is.  It could be happy, mad, mean, angry, silly, pretty princess, etc.  Then children decide how that spider would go up the waterspout.

Bread and Butter (Sharon Howard)
When you walk down the hall and go around a post or pole say this chant to the tune of “Frere Jacques”:
Bread and butter
Bread and butter
Toast and jam
Toast and jam
Peanut butter jelly
Peanut butter jelly
Cheese and ham
Cheese and ham

Monday, April 23, 2012


The brain is so fascinating to me, and I’m always anxious to learn everything I can about it!  Krista Weber recently sent me some interesting information by Chris Biffle:
I think Chris and I could be good friends because we’re certainly on the same page when it comes to engaging children in a meaningful.  I hope to attend one of his workshops and learn more!
WBT’s Big Seven:
1.     The Attention Getter: Class-Yes! 
         Teacher says, “Class!” and children respond, “Yes!”
2.    The Organizer:  Rehearse Classroom rules with gestures.
3.    The Whole Brain Activator:  Teach/Okay 
     Teach briefly and then clap your hands and say, 
     “Teach!”  Students turn to a neighbor and using
     gestures reteach the information.
4.    The Motivator:  The Scoreboard
      Use a Smiley/Frowny diagram on the board to keep
      students engaged.  When students are off task put a
      point under the frowny.  When they are participating
      put a point under the smiley.
5.    The Class Unifier:  Mirror
     Teacher holds up hands and says, “Mirror!” as she
      makes gestures.  Students say, “Mirror!” and mimic
6.    The Focuser:  Hands and Eyes
     When the teacher has something important to say she
     says, “Hands and eyes!”  Students fold their hands
     and stare intensely at the teacher.
7.    The Involver:  Switch
     Count class off in ls and 2s.  After Teach-Okay, the
     1s teach with gestures and the 2s mirror the
     gestures.  After “Switch!” is called students change

I think it’s interesting to reflect on the biological aspects of the brain from Zull’s research with the practical applications from Biffle.  Have I bored you with all this brain research?  Well, come back tomorrow and I’ll “switch” to more fun ideas for your classroom!