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Wednesday, July 31, 2013


You asked for it – and you got it!  You can watch me do these activities on a new video my daughter made for you.
This is a song I would often sing to focus my students’ attention.  I’d start singing and they would join in with me.  By the time we got to “freeze” I had everyone’s attention.
Miss Sue from Alabama
Miss Sue, Miss Sue,   (Snap fingers as you move you arms up and down.)
Miss Sue from Alabama.
Sitting in her rocker,  (Put right foot in front and rock back and forth.)
Eating Betty Crocker,  (Pretend to hold a bowl and eat something.)
Watching the clock go
Tick-tock, tick-tock banana rock.   (Stick up index fingers and move                                                                 from side to side.)
Tick-tock, tick-tock banana rock.
A B C D E F G,             (Take palms and brush your chest.)
Wash those spots right off of me.
Oosha mama, oosha mama,  (Hold out palms and wiggle hips.)
Oosha mama, FREEZE!   (Freeze.)

Plant a Garden
First the child chooses what kind of garden they want.  (Peas, sunflowers, etc.)
Dig up the dirt.  (Gently scratch fingers on the back.)
Rake up the dirt.  (Use fingers like a rake and drag down the back.)
Then dig the holes.  (Use finger to make a shovel motion.)
Next, plant the seeds.  (Use finger to lightly touch where the holes are.)
Cover the seeds with dirt.  (Use hand and rub around.)
Now, pat down the dirt.  (Gently pat the back.)
Here comes the rain. (Use fingers to tap on back.)
Here comes the sun.  (Rub back in circular motion.)
Up come the plants!!  (Use fingers to scoop in an upward motion.)
Now pick them.  (Use light pinching motion with thumb and finger.)

Put the Baby to Bed
Now it’s time to go to sleep  (Hold up right index finger.)
Put the baby to bed.            (Place index finger on left palm)
Cover the baby in the bed.    (Wrap left fingers around right index.)
Kiss the baby good-night.      (Pretend to kiss finger.)
Waaa!  Waaa!                         (Hold up right index finger and cry.)
The baby’s awake!
What can we do?
(Insert children’s suggestions and continue the rhyme.  For example, give it a bottle, change its diapers, give it a toy, read a book, etc.)

May There Always Be Sunshine
(Check out for more detailed sign language movements.)
May there always be sunshine.  (Hold up index finger and circle around.)
May there always be blue skies.  (Hands over head.)
May there always be children.  (One palm going down like stair steps.)
May there always be you.  (Circle index finger and then point to children.)
May there always be stories.  (Index fingers and thumbs touching
                                             and the pull apart.)
May there always be music.  (Hold up left arm and strum with right hand.)
May there always be teachers  (Pull knowledge from your head and
                                             hold palms upright.)
To care for you.  (Make letter “k” with fingers and place on top of
                                             each other.)
 May there always be sunshine.  (To make sunshine make a circle in the
                                             air with your finger.)
May there always be blue skies.  (Hands overhead.)
May you always feel special,   (Hold up index finger on right hand and
                                             touch and move up.)
Because you are you!   (Point to children.)

*This song is a “sweet” way to end your day.  Hold hands in a circle and sway and sing.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


People often ask me how to pronounce “Alphardy.”  Guess what?  It doesn’t matter!  What does matter is that it is a powerful way to review alphabet letters or introduce letters and sounds at the beginning of the school year.  A teacher recently remarked that some of her children had no previous experience with letters or sounds before they started kindergarten.  She said she introduced “Alphardy” the first day of school and sang it every day.  Then, when she administered the DIBELS test they had a clue about sounds.  If you don’t know this song, you definitely need it in your song library.  If you have sung this song for years, I have a few new ways to extend it. 

Alphardy  (“Sing to Learn” CD)
A for apple /a/ /a/ /a/  (Pretend fist is an apple.)
B for bounce /b/ /b/ /b/  (Bounce a ball.)
C for cut /c/ /c/ /c/  (Open and close index and middle fingers as if cutting.)
D for dig /d/ /d/ /d/  (Pretend to dig.)
E – elbow  (Point to elbow.)
F – fan  (Fan self with hand.)
G – gallop  (Gallop in place.)
H – hop  (Hop on one foot.)
I – itch  (Scratch self.)
J – jump  (Jump up and down.)
K – kick  (Little kicks with foot.)
L – love  (Hug self.)
M – munch  (Move mouth as if eating.)
N – nod  (Nod head.)
O – opera  (Extend arms and sing dramatically.)
Q – quiet  (Index finger on lips.)
R.  – run  (Run in place.)
S – sew  (Pretend to hold a needle and sew.)
T – talk  (Open and close fingers like a mouth.)
U – upside  (Lean over.)
V – volley  (Hands in air and pretend to volley a ball.)
W – wiggle   (Wiggle all over.)
X – x-ray   (Make “x” with arms.)
Y – yawn  (Extend arms and pretend to yawn.)
Z – zigzag  (Make an imaginary “z” in the air.)
Letter sounds are all you need.
Put them together and you can read!  (Hold palms together and open like a book.)

*You can download this book at  Click on “free activities” and scroll to the bottom of the page.  Glue the cover to a pocket folder and insert the pages in clear sheet protectors so it will last for years. 

*Make the black and white student version for children to take home and sing with their families.
*Run off this chart (January, 2010) for each student and glue to a file folder.  Children can use this for choral singing or for independent work at the listening center.  If you give them a pretzel stick or Bugle for a pointer they’ll get a little snack at the end of the song!

*Introduce sign language with this song.  Visit to learn manual signs.

*Insert children’s names in the song: 
            D for Darren /d/ /d/ /d/
            E for Erin /e/ /e/ /e/
            S for Sammy /s/ /s/ /s/
            H for Hannah /h/ /h/ /h/

*Adapt the words for environmental print:
            M for MacDonald’s /m/ /m/ /m/
            L for Legos /l/ /l/ /l/

*Take color words, number words, or high frequency words and sing them.
            R for red /r/ /r/ /r/
            P for purple /p/ /p/ /p/ 

Monday, July 29, 2013


Oh, Canada!  I’m coming to see you next week in Toronto.  Go to to register for "Summer Camp" August 7th & 8th.  It’s going to be AWESOME!


This is definitely a difficult blog for me to write because I’m always hesitant to give advice when it comes to behavior issues.  You really need to know the age level, classroom situation, and individual child before passing judgement.  However, someone recently requested I make a few comments on what to do when children don’t sing, so I’ll do my best.  When I do free concerts at schools, 95% of the children are right with.  There are a few that look at me like I’m nuts, but I ignore them and by the end of the concert I’ve usually got most of them to smile and sing.   

First of all, look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I capturing the children’s attention?  Am I enthusiastic?  Would I want to sing with me if I were a child?  Are my songs engaging and FUN?”  No matter how entertaining you are, there might be one or two children that don’t participate.  My best advice would be to ignore them.  I don’t think you should ever force children to sing or make it a power struggle.   Focus on the positive with comments like, “The more you sing the happier you will be.”  “Singing is good for the brain and will help you learn.”  “Music helps us love each other.”

Second, think about why a child might not be singing. 
*If you’ve ever taught a selected mute (child who refuses to speak), you might as well accept their silence because there’s not a thing you can do about it.
*Perhaps a child feels shy.  Give them a little time and they may feel more comfortable and confident in joining group activities.
*Divide and conquer!  Sometimes you’ll have two children that will sabotage everything you do when they sit next to each other.  Separate them!
*Have a little chat and ask the child why she isn't singing. 
*Ask children what their favorite song is and incorporate that into your music program.
*Provide musical instruments or other props that might get children involved.  (This could be as simple as paper plates or tissue paper streamers.)
*Offer a wide range of music and movement activities, such as chants, dances, exercises, hand clap games, etc.  There’s usually some special song that will capture their interest.  (“The Banana Dance,” “Pizza Hut,” or my cheers usually do the trick for me.)
*Discuss the issue with parents.  Sometimes the child won’t sing at school, but they sing the songs at home.  By providing parents with lyrics to songs they can enjoy the music at home with their child.
*One first grade teacher said she used a behavior system in her classroom where the children moved their clothespin from green, to yellow, to red.  The students learned if they were on yellow or red and they participated enthusiastically in music they got to move their clothespin back up to green.  She said it worked like a charm for her.

Every class, every child, every situation is unique.  Put on a happy face and act like singing is the most fun thing in the world!!!  Because it is!!!

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Those of you who were teaching 20 years ago probably recall the name Jim Trelease.  He was the Ron Clark of the day, and his READ-ALOUD HANDBOOK was an inspiration to all of us.  I was thrilled to hear that a new edition was coming out this summer and could hardly wait for my copy to arrive.  It is a “must read” and it will touch your heart!  It might also frustrate you (as it did me) because there is such a dissonance between what we should be doing and actual classroom practices.  I wish every school administrator and decision maker would read this book so they would understand that reading is not all in the head.  Reading also touches our hearts and souls!  This book should also be required reading for parents.

Want to know Trelease’s formula for creating proficient readers?
            The more you read, the better you get at it;
            the better you get at it, the more you like it;
            and the more you like it, the more you do it.

All pre-K and kindergarten children WANT to read and are EXCITED about reading.  But, according to research, their interest and reading for pleasure decrease significantly through the grades.  We might be winning the (test score) battle, but we are losing the (love of reading) war.  Another interesting piece of research emphasized the importance of teachers reading aloud and giving children time in school for pleasure reading.  Ah, but I’m preaching to the choir now!

And what am I reading for pleasure right now?  I’ve started revisiting favorite books from my past like THE GOOD EARTH (Pearl Buck), A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (Betty Smith), and THE THORN BIRDS (Colleen McCullough).  Books really are like good friends that you want to visit again and again!

Happy reading to all!

Saturday, July 27, 2013


Here are a few more idea for you before school begins.  You know all of those love letters and pictures children draw for you each year?  Why not use a three-ring notebook to save them so children will realize they are special to you?  Keep the notebook in your classroom library so the children can revisit it all year long.

Cheers and Goals
As you meet with parents at the beginning of the year, ask them to write down several special things about their child and three or four goals that they have for their child.  This will let you know their priorities and expectations.  As you review the list with them say, “This is how I can help (child) accomplish this goal.  What can you do to nurture this skill at home?”  This will build a partnership and remind parents that have a powerful role to play in their child’s education.

Under Construction – Wrapped Up!
Clare Ashford has a great idea to take “under construction” one step further.
“Before Meet the Teacher night (before school starts), I wrap all my bookcases, computers, etc. in butcher paper and then put an ‘under construction’ sign on them. It serves 2 purposes. 1- that way kids don't get into things while I'm busy talking to people! and 2- we ‘unwrap’ the items together as a class when we're ready to use whatever it is. It is very helpful and makes for an organized start to the year!”

Key Ideas on a Key Chain  (Teresa Whitehead)
Write words to songs, finger plays, transition tips, etc. on index cards and punch a hole in them.  Attach to a retractable key chain and you can carry them with you wherever you go.

Friday, July 26, 2013


Well, if you've been visiting my blog this month, you are more than ready for the first twelve days of school!

The First Twelve Days of School

(Tune:  “The Twelve Days of Christmas”)
On the first day of school  (Hold up 1 finger.)
My teacher gave to me
A book of the ABC’s.
2nd – two new pencils   (Hold up 2 fingers.)
3rd – three color crayons   (Hold up 3 fingers.)
4th – four glue sticks   (Hold up 4 fingers.)
5th – five gold stars   (Hold up 5 fingers.)
6th – six pairs of scissors  (Hold up 6 fingers.)
7th – seven school boxes  (Hold up 7 fingers.)
8th – eight spiral notebooks  (Hold up 8 fingers.)
9th – nine wooden rulers  (Hold up 9 fingers.)
10th – ten magic markers  (Hold up 10 fingers.)
11th – eleven pink erasers  (Hold up 10 fingers, close, and then hold up 1.)
12th – twelve library books   (Hold up 10 fingers, close, and then hold up 2.)

Here’s a link for the book you can download from my website.

*Make up new songs each month with seasonal objects.  For example, “On the first day of November my teacher game to me, a big, fat, gobbling turkey.  On the second day of November my teacher gave to me, two pumpkin pies….”

PowerPoint Coming August 1st
Check my website on August 1st because we will have a new
PowerPoint and free download for this song!!!

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Some of you might be stressing out about getting your room ready when school starts.  Have I got a plan for you!  Take yellow caution tape and wrap it around your door.  Post a sign for parents and students that says:
“This room is under construction because it will be ‘home’ for all of us this school year.  It is important that the children help me decorate it with their artwork and personalities.  Please come visit us in a week and see what we have created!”

How about some crafts your students can make to decorate the room?

Welcome to the Neighborhood
Make a house from construction paper for each child.  Fold the paper in half vertically.  Open.  Fold in the top corners to the middle.  Fold up the bottom.  Let children write their name on the front of the house.  They can open the house and draw their family.  You could also ask child to bring in a photograph of their family.  Add some trees and a school and you have a great bulletin board.Class Quilt

Class Quilt
Use group art to create a visual representation of the “community” in your classroom.  Give each child a 9” square and have them decorate it with pictures of themselves, drawings of their families or favorite things, collage materials, etc.  Punch holes in the corner of each square and tie together with yarn to make a quilt to display in the classroom or hallway.

Friendship Chain
Give each child a strip of construction paper to decorate with their name, symbols of favorite things, or designs.  Staple the strips together to  make a chain.  Remind the children that your classroom is just like that chain.  Everyone must work together to keep it connected and strong.  Drape the chain over the doorway.

Fit Like a Puzzle
Take a large sheet of poster board and cut it into puzzle shapes.  (You will need one puzzle piece for each child in the room.  Mark the back of the piece with an “X” so they will know which side to decorate.)  After the children have decorated their piece, challenge them to put their pieces together to make a puzzle.  Glue pieces to another sheet of poster board to create a picture puzzle for your classroom.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Welcome to Our Room Book
Here is a project children can do at home with their parents.  Send home a sheet similar to the one below where children attach their photo and fill in statements about their favorite food, siblings, pets, book, etc.  Younger children could dictate answers and older children can write their own responses.  After children orally share their papers with their classmates, put them together to make a book.  Invite children to take the book home to share with their families.

Family Bottle
Collect clear, plastic bottles (from water or soda) and give one to each child when they come to register or on the first day of school.    Ask them to fill the bottle with cut out photographs of family members and other small trinkets and mementos.  Have children bring their bottles to school the first day and use them for “show and tell.”  Store the bottles in a basket and when children are a little sad or homesick, tell them to get their family bottle and it will make them feel better.

What’s Your Bag? 
Give each child a lunch sack at registration or the first day of school and ask them to put the wrapper from their favorite candy, something their favorite color, a picture of their family, the title of their favorite book, etc. in the bag.  After sharing these objects with classmates, they can use them to decorate journals, make banners about themselves, etc. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Add the following items to a zip bag along with the letter: 

    cotton ball                         Hershey’s kiss            sticker
    rubber band                      penny                           tissue
    gold star                            band aid                       Life Saver
    gold thread                       eraser                                               
   “Welcome to your new classroom.  Each item in this bag 
    has a special  meaning for you!”

*The cotton ball is to remind you that this room is full of kind words and warm feelings.
*The chocolate kiss is to remind you that I care about you.
*The sticker is to remind you that we will all need to stick together and 
help each other.
*The rubber band is to remind you to hug someone.
*The penny is to remind you that you are valuable and special.
*The tissue is to remind you to help dry someone’s tears.
*The star is to remind you to shine and always try your best.
*The bandage is to remind you to heal hurt feelings in your friends and yourself.
*The gold thread is to remind you that friendship ties our hearts together.
*The eraser is to remind you that everyone makes mistakes, and that is okay.
*The Life Saver is to remind you that you can always come to me if you need someone to help you.
                                                With love,  (Teacher’s Signature)
TLC for Parents
Put the note below in an envelope with a cotton ball and tea bag and send it home to the
parents the first day of school.

Dear Parents,
Thank you for entrusting your child to me.  I promise to do my best every day to be your
child’s companion in learning.

Sit down, relax, and have a cup of tea.  Hold the cotton ball in your hand to remind
you of the gentle spirit of your child.  I know we will have a wonderful year as we learn
and grow together!
                                               Sincerely, (Teacher’s Name)

Monday, July 22, 2013


If you’ll go to my July, 2011, website you will find a book you can download free with a broad range of activities you can use to connect with your families.   The amazing thing is that the more parents are involved, the better their children do and the more they value the school.  There are many ways that parents can participate and contribute to their child’s education.  A good place to start would be an interest inventory where parents have the opportunity to discuss their experiences, hobbies, and talents. 

Here are other some suggestions for a check list where parents could check off how they will support your program:

Attend meetings and conferences.
Chaperone field trips.
Make phone calls or send emails.
Plan parties.
Collect free items for projects.  Participate in recycling programs.
Make games and materials for the classroom.
Assist with technology for the classroom.
Plan service projects and fund raisers.
Share their culture, trips, career, or a hobby with the children.
Volunteer to tell stories, assist with learning centers, help with a project.
Tutor children.
Participate in clean-up days or repair broken equipment.
Compile a class scrapbook or video.
Advocacy for legislation that supports children and education.

Brown Bag Special
This is perfect for the working parent.  Put materials for making games, art projects, etc. in a brown grocery sack.  Children get to deliver the “brown bag special” to their parents to complete at home.  They will be so proud to return the bag knowing that their parent is involved in their classroom!

Hint!  For parents with computer access and financial resources, ask them to download books and free materials from the internet.  For other parents, you could put in paper and a pattern for them to cut out for a class game.  Everybody can do something and everybody needs to feel appreciated for their efforts!
Helping Hands
Cut out paper hands and write different items you would like for your classroom, such as paper lunch bags, tissues, plastic bags, etc.  (You know all those things you have to buy with your own money!  Materials could range from something inexpensive to a Dust Buster or old rocking chair.)  Tape these to your door and “invite” parents who would like to help to choose a hand and purchase those items. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Say “Yes!”
Go to your principal before school starts and ask her to say, “Yes!” when you ask her a question.  Then ask your principal to give you the best and brightest children in your room this year.  (To which the principal will reply, “Yes!”)  On the first day say, “I asked the principal to give me the best and brightest children this year.  And here you are!”  Throughout the school year remind them that they are the best and the brightest and they will live up to your expectations!

*One teacher told me that she tells, “You are lucky to be in my room because I’m the best teacher in the school.  But don’t let the other kids know or they’ll be jealous!”  LOL

Business Cards

Use your computer to help children design personal business cards.  Include the child’s name, school, teacher’s name, and a graphic of their choice.  Print on cardstock, cut apart, and have children distribute them to family members, neighbors, and friends.  How cool is that!!!

Tear Tea

Sometimes it’s as difficult for the parents to say good-bye as it is for the children.  Planning a tea for parents in the library after they drop their children off will ease the separation.  It would also be a great time to recruit volunteers for the school!

Hint!  Give a pack of tissues as a party favor!

The Kissing Hand

What would we do without this wonderful book to help children (and parents) transition to school.  I know there are countless activities to do with this book, but one of the simplest is to have parents and children trace and cut out each other’s hands the first day of school.  After kissing the hands, pin the parent’s hand to the child and send the parent to the “tear tea” below with their child’s hand.