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Saturday, November 30, 2013


Common Core is not going to be the Grinch to steal away your fun this month.  Take a look at some of these ideas I’ve got for you!

RF.3c Paper Chain - Each day let children write a high frequency word on a strip of paper and glue the ends to make a link in a chain.  They can practice reading over previous words each day as they add a new word and link.
*Adapt these for Hanukkah or Kwanzaa colors.

0A.A1Snowman Math - Give children the outline of a snowman similar to the one shown.  They can take buttons or other manipulatives and place sets in the top two sections.  Join them together in the bottom circle to make the sum.  Ask students to write the equation.
*Give children a certain number of buttons.  How many different combinations can the make on the snowman to come up with the same sum?

LS.4 Candy Cane Vocabulary – Take a square sheet of paper and color red around the edges on all four sides. Roll up diagonally, bend one end, and you’ll have a candy cane.  Use a web to brainstorm descriptive words for candy canes. 

SL.5  Family Celebrations – Make houses from construction paper similar to the one shown.  (Fold in half.  Open.  Fold in the top corners.  Fold up the bottom edge.)

Children can draw pictures and write stories of how their family celebrates.  Let them share their projects with classmates.

W.3 Timeline – Give children long pieces of paper so they can make a time line of the “Gingerbread Man.”  (I cut my strips from grocery sacks.) 
*Read several versions of the “Gingerbread Man” and compare and contrast.

W.2 Descriptive Writing – Fold 2 sheets of paper in half and staple to make a book for each child.  Children think of a title for their books and add their name as author and illustrator.  Have them write and complete the following statements on each page:
            My (holiday) smells like…
            My (holiday) looks like…
            My (holiday) sounds like…
            My (holiday) feels like…
            My (holiday) tastes like…
*For younger children run off the sentences and let them dictate sentences.

G.A.1  Preposition Elf – Hide an elf (Elf on the Shelf or one of his friends) or similar seasonal toy in a different place in the room every day.  Encourage children to use complete sentences as they describe where the elf is. 
*Let children take turns hiding the toy and calling on friends to explain its location.

Friday, November 29, 2013


Some of you will be shopping today and some of you will be working on lesson plans for December.  Over the next week I’ll post art projects, gifts children can make, recipes, and lots of FUN ideas.  Although you probably haven’t finished your turkey leftovers, I know you need ideas sooner rather than later so you can collect materials and integrate these ideas into your lesson plans. 

Note!  Some of you might not do holidays in your schools, so feel free to adapt these projects. 

How about using children’s hands to make wrapping paper, cards, or decorations.  You can trace around their hands and cut them out, or let children dip their hands in paint and print.  You could also use fabric paint and make holiday shirts with their handprints.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Say the blessing and pass the dressing!

Here's the newest member of Holly's family that we are thankful for.  I know she looks like a rat, but she's Demi, an adorable rescue puppy!  She was so matted that they had to shave her and she was so malnourished that she didn't even know how to play.  I want to weep when I think about the first few years of her life.  But now she is loved, fed, warm, and happy!  (A little crazy, but sweet as pumpkin pie!)  I am thankful for all the pet helpers that save our four legged friends.
Blessings and love to all of you, your families, and your 
pets from Lily (my brother's dog) and Demi.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Last week at the NAEYC Conference a teacher asked, “What do you do about children with mobility issues or other special needs?”  I smiled and said, “I just treat them like children!”  Music is the universal language for children of all ages, abilities, cultures, economic levels…  When I look at children I don’t see wheelchairs or hair color or reading level.  I just see a child who wants to have fun and be loved!  I have sung with countless children with crutches and other needs and they don’t know they can’t “Tooty Ta” if you don’t tell them!!!

One of my most precious memories happened last Friday when I got to sing at Kalina’s school.  We were also invited to the Congressional Schools in Falls Church, VA.  Kalina is usually quite shy, so I told her she could stand up and sing with me or just sit down and watch.  Joy of joys!  She stood beside me and sang every word and did every motion!  Does it get any better than that?  Singing with children – especially with your own grandchild at your side - is a pure blessing!  Life is full of ups and downs (and, yes, I have them as well), but that was the top of the roller coaster for me!  I will treasure the moment and I’m so grateful for the teachers at the Congressional Schools for giving me the special memory!

Thank you for the world so sweet.
Thank you for the food we eat.
Thank you for the birds that sing.
Thank you, God, for everything!

Thank you for those that teach.
Thank you for the children they reach.
Thank you for the songs we sing.
Thank you, God, for everything!

Blessings to all of you on Thanksgiving Day!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Last week was busy, busy with a workshop in Columbia, SC, and the NAEYC Conference in DC.  There was a lot of “stuff” in the exhibit hall.  It is tempting to get caught up in the materialism of early childhood and to believe that we need the latest and greatest technology, toys, and equipment.  Mary Blenner really touched my heart when she remarked, “Teachers think they have to have great activities that are super fun to make school fun.  The reality is that teachers have to be FUN and school will be FUN for the children!”  Amen!

Forest Crowns
There were several exhibits with natural equipment (tree trunks as benches and limbs for climbers) at the Conference.  I loved these forest crowns made with sentence strips, double sided tape, and leaves and natural objects found on the ground.

Magic Bag  (Towson University Students)
Bring in an empty bag and tell the students it is filled with shoes.  The students have to pull out a pair of shoes and act out what the shoes are.  For example, they could pull out ice skates and ice skate around…ballet shoes and dance…fins and swim…etc.

A New Handshake (David Bedard)
Burger – Bump fists together.
Fries – Fingers up and back of hands together.
Shake – Arms up and shake around.

Turn and Talk  (Holli Grolosky)
When children share with a partner they say, “Eyes to eyes and knees to knees.”
When reading with a partner they say, “Elbows to elbows and knees to knees.  I read to you and you read to me.  The book’s in the middle so we both can see!”

Can-Have-Are  (Macon Turner)
Make a flip book with three sections.  Write “can,” “have,” “are” on the front.  Children open and write descriptions for animals, plants, and other topics you are studying.

Peanut Butter Plus (Sara Jane Campbell)
When doing the song, “Peanut butter, we like peanut butter,” do different exercises on the chorus.  For example, toe touches, jumping jacks, twists, run in place, etc.  After practicing the song several times let students lead and pick movements to do during the chorus. 
*Write the motions on cards and randomly pull them out.
Make New Friends, But Keep the Old  - I saw my dear friends Mary Jo Huff and Lisa Maddox, and I met some new friends as well!

Monday, November 25, 2013


The ability to find useful and reliable information is essential in all areas of life.  Technology skills will also be critical to future success.

Where Do You Go When You Need to Know?  Encourage students to suggest what they can do when they want to know something.
                        Go to the library.
                        Search on the internet.
                        Look in a magazine or book.
                        Ask the teacher.
                        Ask a friend.
                        Ask someone in your family.
                        Go on a field trip.
                        Look around.

Free Sites for Technology  (animate reactions to literature and current events) (video streaming) (paperless storage) (e scrapbooking) (creating a podcast) (paperless storage of materials) (create multi-media presentations) (completing an online survey)

Here are classroom activities that can foster technical skills:
Send emails
Use the internet for research
Use a Smartboard
Build a wiki
Create a photostory
Write a classroom blog
Assess and evaluate research sources
Interpret media sources
Use technology to write and illustrate stories
Make a movie after a field
Graph – use software to record and analyze data
Incorporate the use of digital technologies in the classroom (PDAs, media players, GPS, computers, SmartPhones, etc.)

Note! Several weeks ago at a workshop a teacher said, “Dr. Jean, I know you don’t like technology.”  That’s not true!  I LOVE technology!  Mr. Google is one of my best friends!  However, I think technology in children’s lives needs to be balanced with all of the hands-on activities and social experiences I try to share with you every day.  Balance, balance, balance!

Sunday, November 24, 2013


“Life is like riding a bike.  If you stop pedaling you fall off.” 
Change is inevitable and children will constantly be challenged to adapt to new circumstances in the future.

Many Ways – Sing different versions of the same song or read different versions of folk tales.  Remind children that there are many ways to do things, and that’s O.K.

Variety – The Spice of Life – Vary work groups and seating arrangements in the classroom. 
*Have students turn their chairs around and face the back of the room.
*Let children exchange seats with a classmate.
*Do “Tummy Time” where children lay on the floor and read, write, and work.

State Changes – How about Whisper Wednesday where you whisper all day? 
*Turn off overhead lights.
*Give children sugarless bubblegum to chew.
*Have silly sock, sports day, cap day, dress up day, and other theme days.
*Use colored paper or colored pencils.

Schedule – Write the activities in the day on index cards.  Include specials like music and P.E.  Put a piece of magnetic tape on the back of each card.  Every morning put the activities up according to the schedule for the day.

Opposite Day – Flip your schedule for the day by starting with a good-bye song and reversing the order until you end with a good morning song.  Read a book from the last page to the beginning.  Be sure and eat your dessert first when you go to lunch!

Self-Directed Learners – Make individual contracts for students with a list of assignments, centers, and so forth.  Allow them to make decisions about the order and length of time they spend on the activities.  Set a deadline for when all work should be completed.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Creativity is the ability to look at something in a new way.  Where would the world be without creative thinkers?  It takes courage and a strong sense of self to step outside the box into a new territory.

Open Minded Teachers – Teachers need to accept divergent thinking and keep a sense of humor.

Assessment Show and Tell – Challenge children to demonstrate what they have learned in a creative way.  They can sing a song, dress up, cook something, make a mural, etc.

Kiss Your Brain!  An answer doesn’t have to be correct.  If children express an original idea you can tell them to “kiss their brain” as you model kissing your fingertips and touching your head.

Inventors – Check out for links to many different competitions.

Junk Box – Recycle cardboard rollers, bubble wrap, catalogs, junk mail, bottle caps, etc. for children to create into artwork, games, inventions, and toys.
*Building traps for leprechauns around St. Patrick’s Day is always delightful!

Idle Time – The brain needs a quiet time in order to process information and make new connections.  “Brain Growth Time” (aka rest time) needs to be part of the school day.  Parents also need to be reminded that boredom is a good thing.  Children don’t need to be entertained or scheduled constantly.

Brainstorm – Provide children with opportunities to brainstorm in groups and independently.  Use attribute webs, time lines, shapes, and other graphic organizers.

Literature – Creative writing enhances literacy skills as well as original thoughts.  Children can write stories, poems, songs, plays, and so forth.

Learning Centers – Blocks, construction toys, play dough, puppets, art media, and musical instruments all provide children with the opportunity to explore their talents and interests.

Outdoor Explorations – Nature is the perfect prescription to clear the mind and open creative thought.  Children need to spend as much time as possible on the playground, at the park, or in their own backyard.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Collaboration refers to two or more people working together toward a common goal.  When individuals cooperate and work side-by-side they can create something that is greater than the sum of its parts.  Last week I did two blogs on things children can do with a partner.  Here are ideas for small group work.

Small Groups – Cooperative work groups provide children with the opportunity to set goals, plan, communicate, problem solve, and be creative. 
*It might be interesting to assign roles, such as the supervisor (leader), secretary (takes notes), and reporter (shares information), cheerleader (team member who encourages). 
Hint!  To enable different students to have leadership roles, you could have a “lucky draw” for these positions.  Write “supervisor,” “secretary,” “reporter,” and “cheerleader” on jumbo craft sticks.  Place in a can, shake, and then let team members chose a random role.

Here are a few learning opportunities for small groups:
Do a social studies or science project around an assigned theme.  They could make a poster, write a report, do a skit, make a video, etc.
Brainstorm!  Make lists!
Do surveys and collect data.
Write a play, story, poem, rap, or song and present it to the class.
Play a board game.
Work on a science experiment together.
Write letters to politicians, authors, or other famous people.
Make books together.
Answer questions.  Teacher asks a question and they get together to come up with an answer they agree on.
Work on an invention.
Do an internet search.
How about a PowerPoint, blog, or digital photographs?

Pat on the Back – Encourage children to recognize the efforts of each member in their group. Have them stand in a circle and take turns patting each other on the back and saying a contribution each team member made.

Upper Grade Buddies  - Do collaborative learning activities with different groups.  Kindergarteners could be paired with 4th graders or classes on the same grade level could be partnered.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


My daughter Holly and I will be presenting at the NAEYC Conference today and our topic is “21st Century Skills:  It’s a Song and a Game.”  I totally endorse the 21st Century Skills because they add balance to the cognitive focus of the CCSS. The Partnership for the 21st Century Skills ( suggests centers, field trips, providing children with choices, working in small groups, multi-sensory learning, discovery based learning, authentic play activities, multi-cultural education, oral language, connecting emotionally with the child… EVERYTHING that we have traditionally done in early childhood!
Since most of you will not be attending the Conference, over the next few days I’ll share activities from our presentation.  How about that?  And, when I get home next week I hope to have TONS of new information for you!
Self-Direction and Social Responsibility
Learning to monitor one’s own behavior (executive function), delay gratification, and support the larger group are essential personal skills and employability skills.

Classroom Jobs – Assign classroom jobs weekly.  Title the jobs by real careers.
Supervisor – Calls the roll.
Maintenance – Picks up the classroom.
Police Officer – Makes sure everyone walks slowly in the hall.
Mail Carrier – Passes out papers.
Librarian – Cleans the classroom library.
Gardener – Waters the plants.
Meteorologist – Gives the morning weather report.
Accountant – Does the lunch count.
UPS – Takes reports to the office.

President of the Day – Let children take turns being the “President of the Day.”   They can act like a “leader” and perform simple routines.

Cheers and Goals – Each month have children fold a sheet of paper in half.  On the left side ask them to draw a picture and dictate or write a sentence of something they have learned and want to cheer about.  On the right side ask them to draw a goal that they have for the following month.  Date, save, and evaluate how they are doing.

What Is a Good Student?  Have children discuss what it means to be a good student.  What characteristics describe a good student?  Act out being responsible, respectful, polite, etc.  Write behaviors children suggest on index cards and pin one to each child.  Call them by that word throughout the day.  If they are not behaving appropriately ask, “Polite, are you actually being polite?  Do I need to take your word away?”

Organization – Create checklists, weekly homework assignments, and visual organizational aids to help children stay on task.
*Have a job called “five more minutes.”  Let that person walk around holding up five fingers to warn classmates when there are five more minutes to complete tasks.

Career Education – Have children interview their parents about their jobs.  What do they like best about their job?  How did they train for their job?  Do they need special clothing or tools?
*Invite parents to come talk to the class about their profession.
*Let children dress up for the career they’d like to have when they are grown.  Have them tell why they selected that career and how they plan to accomplish their goal.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I’ll be at the NAEYC Conference this week, and this is one of the activities I’ll be sharing for Common Core.  This game is so simple to make and can be adapted for any grade level or unit of study.

Skills:             RFK1d (recognize and name letters)
                        RFK3a (phonics – beginning sounds)
                        LK5a    (sort objects into categories)
Materials:       2 sheets of poster board of different colors, marker
Directions:     Cut the poster board into 4” squares.  You will need 23 squares of each color.  On one color print alphabet letters.  (Print “u & v” on the same card and “x, y, z” on another card.)  On the other color print one of the categories below:

something in the yard                        an animal
fruit or vegetable                                movie star
something in the kitchen                   body part
river, lake, or ocean                           town or city
country or state                                   a machine
type of transportation                         a food
something you wear                          an action
something in the zoo                         a plant
a toy                                                     a book
a song                                                  a noun
a famous person                                a verb
something in the school                    a game
a TV show                                           a feeling
a color                                                  an occupation
restaurant or store                              something that flies

Shuffle up each set of cards.  Draw a card from the “letter pile” and a card from the “category pile.”  Encourage the children to make the sound of the letter.  Can they think of a word in the category that begins with that sound?

*When introducing this game, simply play it as a shared group activity and do not keep score.  As children become more proficient, divide the class into teams and give points to the first team to come up with a word that fits the category.  Children may also enjoy playing this game in small groups.

*Adapt the categories to the age and ability of your students.  For example, you could use adjectives, adverbs, nouns, verbs, prepositions, mammals, etc. for older students.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


More or less?
You put me to the test!
Someone emailed that her students were having difficulty with the concept “more and less,” and she wanted to know if I had a song.  Well, I didn’t, but that was a great idea so I made one up!  If you ever need help with anything, please let me know and keep me on my toes!!!

More or Less?
(Tune:  “If You’re Happy”)
If you have lots of something say MORE!  (Open arms wide and say in a loud voice.)
If you want lots of something say MORE!
More books, more toys,
More friends, more joy.
If you have lots of something say MORE!
If you don’t have much of something say LESS.  (Palms close and whisper.)
If you don’t want much of something say LESS.
Less homework, less tests,
Less booboos, less mess.
If you don’t have much of something say LESS.
Make a T-chart where children list things they’d like more and less of.

Extend arms and make the body be like a balance scale.  Call out things children would want more of (cookies, recess, etc.) as they raise their right arm.  Call out things children would like less of (chores, shots) as they lower their left arm.

Give children manipulatives.  Make a set on the board.  Tell them to make a set that is MORE.  Can they make a set that is LESS?

Using a number line (on the floor) ask a child to stand on a number.  Can you show me one more?  Can you show me one less?  

Sing the ABC’s and tell the children when you put your hands together they should sing very softly.  As you extend your arms they sing louder and louder.  Can they follow your directions as they make their voices louder and softer?
*Let children take turns being orchestra leader as friends sing loud and soft according to their directions.