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Thursday, October 31, 2013


That's Halloween spelled backwards!  

Take a deep breath and try to enjoy the day.  Forget introducing a new concept or expecting the children to be quiet.  Take lots of brain breaks, play outside, sing some songs, and have a happy day.

Here's some homework children will get a kick out of.  Ask them to save their candy wrappers and bring them to school.  Collect them in a box and then recycle and learn with the activities below.

Count the wrappers.  Make sets of 5 or 10 and count.

Challenge children to sort their wrappers.  Can they regroup them another way?

Use the wrappers to graph their favorite candy.

Look at the food value on each wrapper.  How many calories?  How much sugar?  Rank the candies by calories.

Find descriptive words on the wrappers.  Make a list of the words and use them in sentences.

Fold 2 sheets of paper in half and staple to make a book.  Children write “I like…” at the top of each page and glue a candy wrapper underneath.  This is a book every child in your room can read!  Older children could write descriptive sentences about each candy.

Use the wrappers to make a class book called “The Sweet ABC’s.”  Write alphabet letters on 26 sheets of paper.  Children glue their wrappers to the appropriate letter.  Bind pages together to make a book.
Hint!  If you don’t have a wrapper for each letter, let children suggest “sweet” words for the page.

Glue candy wrappers to a file folder.  Write a coin value by each wrapper.  Children count out the appropriate amount and place it on the wrapper.
Hint!  For young children, price the candies from 1 cent to 10 cents and give them pennies.  Make the amounts higher for older students.

Let children use wrappers to make a collage.  You could use geometric shapes for collages or you could let children make a cover for a journal with the wrappers.
Finally, take advantage of this “teachable moment” by discussing why sugar is not good for their bodies.  What happens if you eat too much sugar?  Make a list of healthy snacks that would be better food choices.

Holly let Kalina and K.J. pick out their own costumes.  Can't you tell?  Talk about a reflection of ages and stages.  The eight year old zombie and the three year old pink bunny!
Yep!  That gym rat is me!  I'm off to my exercise class' Halloween party.
Have a happy, happy day!!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Yesterday I was invited to sing at Jennie Moore Elementary and James B. Edwards in Charleston.  I just LOVE being around kids - especially this time of year!  (I think I’m lucky I was there yesterday instead of Friday!!!)

This mural with mirrors welcomes visitors at James B. Edwards.  The writing says, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, I see a leader in us all!”  Now, that’s what I call a positive message!  I noticed many of the children were wearing red ribbons that said “Just Say No.”  In fact, someone sent an email yesterday asking for a “Just Say No” rap.  I didn’t have one, but I thought it would be a good idea to write one, so here it is.  You can sing it to “Cadence” and snap, clap, or make your hands like rappers.

Just Say NO!  (Children repeat each verse.)
Just say NO!
Just say NO!
Just say NO!
Say NO to drugs!

Winners, winners
They are cool.
Drugs are bad
They learn in school.

Losers, losers,
Don’t you know?
Drugs are NOT
The way to go.

Drugs are bad.
They’ll make you sick.
Just say NO!
That’s the trick.

Eat good food
And exercise.
Be drug free
It’s very wise!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


This activity would be great to do every day as part of your morning meeting. 
Hint!  Start with compound words.  When children are successful with that, use objects with two syllables.  Finally, children will be able to blend individual phonemes.

Directions:  Take a small sack and fill it with common objects or small toys.  Engage children’s attention with this song to the tune of “I’m a Little Teapot.”
            What’s in the sound sack, who can tell?
            Maybe it’s a book or maybe it’s a shell?
            What’s in the sound sack, who can say?
            Blend the sounds, you’ll know right away!
Choose an object and stretch out the sounds.  When children can blend the sounds and say the word, remove it from the sack and place it on the floor.  Before putting each item back in the bag, segment the sounds again.            
Rubber Band Stretch
Tell children to pretend they are holding a rubber band and stretch out the sounds in words.  Let the rubber band go, blend the sounds, and say the word. 
*This would be fun to do with ponytail bands.

Body Blend
Blend words touching parts of the body.  Touch the head as you say the beginning sound in the word.  Touch the stomach as you say the middle sound.  Touch the feet as you say the final sound.  Quickly move your hands from head to feet as you blend the sounds and say the word.
*You can also use the body to isolate sounds. 
For example:  Where do you hear the /p/ in cap?  (Children touch feet.)

Finger Tap
Bend in your fingers and extend your thumb.  Going from left tap a finger for each sound with your thumb.  Then blend the sounds as you sweep your thumb left to right and say the word.
For example:  /j/ /e/ /t/  (Run your thumb over your fingers as you say “jet.”)
*You can do a similar activity by extending your left arm in front of you.  Make the first sound as you touch your shoulder, the second sound as you touch the elbow, and the third sound as you touch the hand.  Then quickly sweep the right hand down your left arm as you blend the sounds and say the word.

Monday, October 28, 2013


Which One Doesn’t Belong?
Say a series of words that begin with the same sound.  Say one word that does not begin like the others.  Children listen and identify the word that does not belong.  (They can touch their ear or make a silly motion when they hear the word that doesn’t belong.)
For example:  sun, sand, top, see (top); boy, house, big, ball (house)

(Tune:  “Good Night Ladies” SING TO LEARN CD)
I put a penny in the gum slot.
I watched the gum roll down.
I get the gum and you get the wrapper,
Cause I put the penny in the gum slot.
*Sing substituting the initial consonant sound of each word with “B,” “N,” “P,”
“G,” “L,” and “F.”
*Cut out a paper gumball machine out of the front of a file folder as shown.  Write different letters on paper and insert in the song as you sing different sounds.
*Substitute other consonants, blends, and diagraphs in this song.

Mirror Mirror
Give children a hand mirror to look at their lips as they say words and make sounds.

Name Pop
Use one child’s name at a time.  Say the name slowly, and then say the first sound multiple times.  Have children “pop” out words that start with that sound.
Example:  Tonya /t/ /t/ /t/ /t/ turtle, talk, time, table, ten, two…Terrific Tonya!
*Think of a positive adjective for each child that begins with that sound.

Bappy Birthday
Sing the birthday song by inserting the first sound in the child’s name for each word. 
For example, Beth’s birthday song would be:  Bappy birthday bo bou…
*You can also insert the sound that the child’s name begins with in “Tooty Ta.”
For example:  Will’s day would be:  Wooty ta, wooty wa, wooty wa wa…
Hint!  If their first name begins with a vowel, use the first sound of their last name or middle name.

Hand Phone
Have children cup one hand around their ear and the other hand in front of their mouth.  The teacher says a series of words that begin with the same sound as the children repeat.
*You can also purchase phonics phones that are perfect for phonological awareness and independent reading.

Delightful Days
Think of adjectives for the days of the week and months of Monday the year. 
For example:  Thrilling Thursday, Fantastic Friday, or Marvelous May.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Introducing compound words can enable children to grasp the concept of word (Reading Foundations).

Write words on opposite sides of a paper plate.  Cut a puzzle shape between the words.  Mix them up and ask children to put the puzzles together and read the words.
Hint!  For younger children use picture cues.
*Cut the plate into thirds.  Write words on two sections as shown and the compound on the third section.

Open and See
Cut paper into rectangles 4” x 10.”  Fold in half.  Open.  Fold each edge to the center as shown.  Write individual words on the two side sections.  Open and write and illustrate the compound word.

Compound Boogie
(Tune:  "Ball in the Jack" IS EVERYBODY HAPPY? CD)
Take the word "rain" and the word "coat."  (Extend a hand on each word.)
Put them together and get “raincoat.”   (Bring hands together.)
            Dog – house…foot – ball…cup – cake…
            Sun – shine…lunch – box…
The compound boogie is easy to do.
You make one word out of two!
And now you can join in the fun.
            I’ll say two words and you make them one.
            Play – ground…side – walk…bath – tub…
            Tree – house… some – thing… sail – boat…
            Bed – room… snow – man…cow – girl…
            Door – bell…

Separating Syllables
Separate words by bringing hands together and saying a compound, such as “sunshine.”  “What happens if we take away ‘sun.’  What happens if we take away ‘shine’?”           

Building Compounds
Put words or pictures on unit blocks.  Have children put these together and read the words.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Reading Foundations
Count, pronounce, blend, and segment syllables in spoken words.

Move It!
Clap, hop, walk, or nod the syllables in classroom objects.  
*Disco, hula, swim, or march to syllables in rhymes and songs.

Mouth It
Have children gently place their palm under their chin and ask them repeat to words.  Surprise!  The mouth opens on each syllable (all syllables have vowels and the mouth opens).

Name Clap
Clap the syllables in children's names.  Make a book similar to the one shown with hands demonstrating the number of syllables you should clap for each child's names.

Syllable Stepping  (Michaela White)
As a way to transition and line up students, have them step out syllables and sounds.  Every student stands in place.  The teacher (or student helper) calls out a word.  The students move according to the syllables they hear. 
Ex:  arctic – 2 syllables – walk 2 steps in line

Put fingers above your head like antennae and “beep” for syllables.
*You can also “Wa wa” like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

Have children beat out syllables with instruments.  You could also use cardboard rollers, straws, pencils, etc. like drum sticks to tap out rhythms and syllables.

Show Me            
Slowly say a word.  Children hold up the number of syllables they hear on their fingers.
*You could also let them show the number of syllables by placing the appropriate number of poker chips on their desk.
Older children can sort word wall words by the number of syllables.  Folding a sheet of paper into thirds (or a brochure) works well for this.

Syllable Clap
Clap, clap, clap your hands
Clap syllables together.
Clap one syllable words,
Clap one time together.
Hop (clap once)  House
Girl          Eye
Look       Red...
Clap two syllable words…
Happy (clap twice)  Brother
Puppy      Window...
Clap three syllable words…
Wonderful (clap 3 times)
Fabulous    Grandfather...

Friday, October 25, 2013


You vs. Me  (Bonnie Bhasin)
Why?               review skills
                         cooperation and collaboration
What?              Partners need whiteboards, markers, and socks for erasers.
How?              Teacher poses a question.  Students whisper in pairs and try to figure out the answer.  They write it down and cover it up.  The teacher walks around after a minute or two saying, “Ready or not…here I come!”  The teacher checks answers.  If anyone has it wrong or says the answer out loud the teacher gets a point.  If all the student pairs have it right, the students get a point.

Ears and Mouths  (Jan Gleason)
Working with a buddy can be difficult for young children.  Give each pair a picture of an ear and a picture of a mouth.  The child holding the “mouth” is the talker and the child holding the “ear” is the listener.  Then switch.
Hint!  Use photos of an animal’s ears and mouth.

Macarena Months
Change the “Macarena Months” by doing different seasonal or holiday characters.  For example, in the fall you could be scarecrows, spiders, ghosts, etc.

Kinder Keyboard  (Jolene Saylor)
Make a kinder keyboard with a shoebox.  Glue the keyboard to the lid of the box.  Put CVC words or sight words in the monitor (box) for the children to choose and type.

Laptop (Barb Meimbresse)
Use a large grocery bag as a laptop computer.  Tuck the bottom under the flap and glue the keyboard as shown.

Animal Bottles  (L. Collins)
Use small water bottles for this activity.  Tape the picture of an animal to the front.  Students use tweezers to pick up small articles, letters, etc. that match the beginning sound and “feed” it to the animal in the bottle.

Rug Activity (Daria Chumielewski)
Before sitting on the carpet, children choose a flash card, identify the first letter of the word or picture, and then sit on the corresponding letter on the carpet.

Sign Language Numbers for Classroom Management  (Mary Rocheck)
Children make the following hand signs for numbers:
1 – I need to use the restroom.
2 – I need a tissue.
3 – I need my pencil sharpened.
4 -  I need water.
5 – I know the answer or have a question.

Syllable Circle Game (Tara Hess)
Using nursery rhymes, pass a ball for each syllable.
Mar (pass) y (pass) had (pass) a (pass) lit (pass) tle (pass) lamb (pass)…
Be careful with “Hickory Dickory Dock” because one syllable makes them very giggly!!!

Cheer Cards (Lonnie Hauer)
Print the cheers out on a color printer and glue them to fluorescent colored index cards.  Laminate and put in a cheer box.  When a child does something great or if they are a special helper, stop and let them choose a cheer.

Bang  (Jill Beltanzetti)
Make a “dynamite” container out of a paper towel tube.  Write sight words, letters, etc. on craft sticks.  Write “BANG!” on a few sticks.  Children pass the dynamite container around and choose a stick.  If they can read the word they can keep it.  If they choose “BANG!” all their sticks go back and the game goes on…

Twister (Ray Burns)
Using a Twister mat, place high frequency words on the colored dots.  Label the spinner with the words.  One student is on the mat and another spins the spinner.  The child on the mat has to find that high frequency word and put their foot or hand on it.
Nursery Rhyme Club
When a child can say a nursery rhyme, leave a white feather on their desk and say, “Mother Goose dropped off your membership card to the nursery rhyme club.  Congratulations!”
Give Me a Flap
(Tune:  “Addams Family”)
Give me a flap.  (Flap your wings.)
Give me a flap.  (Flap your wings.)
Give me a flap, give me a flap, give me a flap.
Now fold your hands and put them down into your lap.

Huge Happy Notes (Megan Geise)
To encourage positive behavior, try to send home a happy note to a different child each day.  If a child has exceptional behavior, then give them a HUGE happy note written on large chart paper.
*They will be proud as can be carrying the note down the hallway!

Good Reads
I’m always on the look out for good professional books.  Here are a few the teachers recommended:
Teasing, Tattling, Defiance and More… by Margaret Berry Wilson
The Next Step in Guided Reading by Jan Richardson
Educating African American Males by Baruti Kafele

Words of Wisdom (Brother Gerald Hopeck)
*Help students learn a story…because they might keep history from being lost!
*Don’t throw out the old before you know the new really works! 

Brother Gerald and I doing the Tango!  First time I’ve ever danced with a Franciscan Monk at a workshop!  And he was a good dancer, too!!!

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Phonological awareness is the ability to recognize sounds in oral language (rhyme, alliteration, syllables, etc.) and is a key to beginning reading.  Language is made up of words that can be broken into syllables.  Those syllables can be broken into individual sounds or phonemes.  Phonological awareness is both aural (hearing) and oral (speaking) and it takes multiple experiences daily to build those skills that will pave the way for phonics instruction. We’ll start today with rhymes, and then move on to compound words, syllables, alliteration, and onsets and rimes.

Rhyme Bag Homework
Give each child a paper bag and ask them to bring in two objects that rhyme.  (You could even make the back into a backpack.)
Repeat this chant below as children share their items:
            We’re going on a rhyming hunt and we know what to do.
            We need to listen carefully and rhyme some words with you.
Say the words several times.  Can children think of other words that rhyme?
*As a follow up activity ask children to draw pictures of things their friends shared that rhyme.

Rhyme Detectives
Tell the children that they will get to be detectives and listen for words that rhyme.  You say a word, and they put their pinkies up if they hear a word that rhymes with it.  Pinkies down if the words don’t rhyme.
            Cat - hat (pinkies up)
            run - dog (pinkies down)            

Handy Rhymes
Have children extend their arms as they sing a pairs of words that rhyme.  Sing to the tune of “Skip to My Lou.”
            Top (hold out right hand)
            Mop  (hold out left hand
            Those words rhyme.
            Sun (hold out right hand)
            Fun (hold out left hand)
            Those words rhyme.
            Kitten (hold out right hand)
            Mitten (hold out left hand)
            Those words rhyme.
            Now, let’s rhyme some more…

Rhyme Ball
You will need a ball, beanbag, or other object to toss for this game.  Children sit or stand in a circle.  The teacher says a word and then tosses the ball to a child.  As the child catches the ball, she must say a word that rhymes.

Name Rhymes
Children love silly nonsense words, so make up rhymes with their names.                          Jason – bason – mason – pason
            Mia – bia – ria – chia

And that’s the end - my friends!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Here are a few more math ideas to stick in your resource pocket!

Math Houses for Fact Families
Cut out house shapes.  Write the numbers on the top of the house as shown.  Children fill in the various addition and subtraction facts.

Friends of Ten Web
Write ten in the middle.  Children think of the facts that equal ten and web them around. 
*Children could do this for decomposing any number.

T Chart for Odd and Even
Write odd and even numbers on the T-chart.  What do children notice about the numbers that are odd?  What’s the same about the numbers that are even?

Math Homework
Have children interview their parents to find out they use math at work.  Report their findings the next day at school.  Let children draw or write what they want to be when they grow up.  Why will math be important in their jobs?

Brainstorm all the things in their homes that use numbers and math. Let them make a list of all the objects/appliances in their homes that have numbers.

The Price Is Right!
Cut pictures of items from a toy catalog or flyer.  Cover up the price.  Let children estimate how much each item costs.  Show the actual value and determine who guessed more, less, or the closest amount.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


I was hunting through some old material for some new ideas to share with you, and have I got a winner!  About 15 years ago I did a workshop called “The Idea Factory” and included a math game called MORE, LESS, EQUAL.  I guess this just goes to show you that everything old is new again because this is a perfect activity for Common Core!
 Divide children into partners and give them manipulatives and a sack with three index cards on which you have written “greater than,” “less than,” and “equal.”  One child makes a set with the manipulatives.  The second child draws a card from the bag and then makes a set according to the directions on the card. 
SQUISH is a similar game that can be played with play dough.  One child squishes the dough and makes a set. The second child selects a card and then must squish the play dough to make a set “greater,” “less than,” or “equal.”

Hint!  I think it would be good for the teacher to model this game with students before dividing them up with a partner.