photo 3am_dj_home_zps919fb85e.png photo 3am_dj_about_zps7cce4c75.png photo 3am_dj_website_zps73051235.png photo 3am_dj_ss_zps6759ec2a.png photo 3am_dj_bs_zps43e27832.png

Thursday, July 31, 2014


Welcome Kit
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)

Say “Yes!”
I'll end my back to school activities with one more idea. 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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


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!”

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!”

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.

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 29, 2014


Go to my website (, click on "free activities" and scroll down to parent partnerships to download monthly activity calendars and other ideas to engage 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. 

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.                      

Monday, July 28, 2014


It’s often been said that, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care!” That is particularly true with children and their parents! Here are some great ideas to help your children get to know you and for you to get to know their families.

Make a brochure about yourself, your school, and fun activities you have planned for the year and mail it to the children before school begins (or just give it to them the first day). To make a brochure, fold a sheet of paper into thirds. On the front section write “Welcome to your name’s Classroom!” On the left section place a picture of yourself and write some personal information about your family, pets, experience, etc. On the inside write “We’ll have a great year together…learning to read, experimenting in science, learning math, working on the computer, cooking, taking field trips, singing, etc. 
Paper Doll Teacher

Here’s something fun to make for your door to welcome the students. Lay on a large sheet of butcher paper and ask a friend to trace around your body. (You’ve probably done this to your children before.) Color yourself and cut yourself out. (Go ahead and take off a few inches if you want to!) Tape this on the door, and then make the following labels and attach them to the different body parts. “A head full of great ideas,” “A mouth to sing you songs and read you stories,” “Arms for hugging,” “Hands to help your learn new things,” “Pockets to hold surprises,” “Play shoes for outdoor fun,” and “A heart full of love for you!” 

Who Is My Teacher?
Make a book about yourself to read to the children the first day of school. Include a photograph of yourself as a child, family photos, pictures of pets, favorite foods, hobbies, why you enjoy teaching, etc. Let one child take the book home each evening to share with their families. (What a simple way to build a partnership with your parents!)

Hint! You might even ask each parent to make a similar book about his child to place in your classroom library.

Special Memories
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. 


Sunday, July 27, 2014


This book is perfect for helping children recognize their names and create friendships. You will need a photograph of each child, construction paper, book rings, and markers. Glue each child’s photo on a page. Write “Hello, (child’s name).” at the top of the page. Punch holes in the pages and put them together with book rings. (If you bind the book on the bottom it will be easy to turn the pages as you hold it in your lap.)
Use the book in the following ways:
* Circle or Group Time: Start your day by reading the book together and saying hello to each other.
* Questions: Use the book when you want to ask the class questions. Randomly turn to a page and call on that child to answer the question. This will allow “thinking time” and discourage children from shouting out the answer.
* Transitions: Use this book to dismiss children for learning centers, to line up, and other transitions. Flip through the book and hold up different pictures. As the children see their photo, they may be dismissed, line up, and so on.

* Sing and read this book to the tune of “Good Night, Ladies.”
            Hello, (child’s name).
            Hello, (child’s name).
            Hello, (child’s name).
            We're glad you're in our room.

Kiss Your Brain
Make a book with “Kiss your brain, (child's name).”

Who Do You See?
We all know wonderful Bill Martin’s “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?” Your children will love saying and “reading” this version with you. Put each child’s photo on a page with this chant at the top:

            (Child’s name), (child’s name), who do you see?
On the bottom of the page write:
            I see (second child’s) name looking at me.
On the last add the teacher’s photo with this rhyme:
            Children, children, who do you see?
            I see (teacher’s name) looking at me.
            (Teacher’s name), (teacher’s name), who do you see?
            I see happy children ready to learn with me!
*Make two copies of this book so one child can take it home each day to share with their families.
*Introduce children to school helpers with a similar book with the principal, secretary, custodian, dietician, PE teacher, music teacher, and other specialists.

That's My Sound

You will need a photograph (or self-portrait) for each child. Glue each child’s photo on a piece of paper. Write the uppercase and lowercase letter that the child’s name begins with on either side of his picture. Glue a copy of the words to the song below to the bottom of the page. Sing and read to the tune of “Where Is Thumbkin?”
*Add a picture of the manual sign for each letter.
Teacher: N is for Natalie.
Children: N is for Natalie.
Teacher: /n/ /n/ /n/
Children: /n/ /n/ /n/
Teacher: Natalie starts with N.
Children: Natalie starts with N.
Teacher: /n/ /n/ /n/
Children: /n/ /n/ /n/
*Start your day by reading and singing the song. Invite the children to name other words that begin with the same sound.

Class Yellow Pages
Tear off the front and back of your “Yellow Pages” to use for the outside of this book. Make inside pages for the book that say, “We are good readers.” “We can help you with the computer.” “We can tie shoes.” “We are good spellers.” “We like to draw.” “We are mathematicians.” “We like to clean.” (Include pages that represent the different multiple intelligences, as well as common tasks in the classroom.) Encourage children to sign up on the pages where they can help others. When someone comes to you for help, remind them to look in the “Class Yellow Pages.”
*For younger children, make a class phone book with their photos and phone numbers. (Make up a number if they have an unlisted number.) Place this by a play phone or an old cell phone so they can practice numeral recognition as they call friends.


This is a book that will help children feel comfortable as they learn the daily routine in your classroom. Even if children can’t read the words, the pictures will provide them with clues about what to do. Read the book each morning to prepare children and to capture their interest in activities you have planned. Have children refer to the book to “see what we should do next.” You could also send the book home with one child each evening to share with their families.

First, take pictures of the children engaged in your daily activities and routines. Glue pictures to construction paper and write captions similar to the ones suggested. (Adapt to the age level of your students and your curriculum.) Put the pages together and bind to make a book.
            Welcome to Marshall School
            Put away your backpack and get ready for a great day! 

            We start our day with circle time and a song!
            We talk, do the calendar, and learn together.

            Next, it’s time for language arts.
            We read, write, listen, and learn!

            Time to go outside for P.E.
            We need to exercise our bodies as well as our brains.

            Next comes math! We count, add, subtract, measure,
             graph, and think!

            Time for lunch.
            I’m hungry! How about you?

            Story time is always special.
            Books are friends that we love to visit again and again.

            Then it’s time for learning centers.

            Let’s recall and review our day.
            Don’t forget your backpacks!
            Good-bye, friends!
            See you tomorrow!

*Make individual books with picture clues for children with language difficulties. The photos will help them know what to expect as they become familiar school routines.

*Put photos of different activities on large index cards. Attach a piece of magnetic tape on both sides. As you review your schedule each morning you can insert specials and adapt to changes. Turn the cards over as you complete each activity so children will understand the progression of the day.

The Name of My School
Do you get tired of children saying, “Teacher, teacher!” the first few days of school. This song will enable them to learn the name of their teacher, school, principal, as well as their community, city, state, and country.
Take photographs of yourself, the principal, the school, your community, and so forth. Glue pictures to construction paper and write a verse similar to those below on each page. Sing the words to the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus.”
The name of my school is (school’s name),
school’s name), (school’s name).
The name of my school is (school’s name).
That’s the name of my school.
The name of my teacher is (teacher’s name), (teacher’s name),
(teacher’s name)…

The name of my principal is…
The name of my librarian is…
The name of my P.E. teacher is…
Hint! Make a similar book for social studies concepts.
                        The name of my city is...
                        The name of my state is...
                        The name of my country is...
                        The name of my continent is...
                        The name of my planet is...
Hint! You could also include the name of your mayor, governor, President, etc.

Friday, July 25, 2014


I’m glad the webinar is over!!! I was really stressed because it was my first one. I stayed awake all last night thinking about how I could have done it better. (See, I’m just like you!) This was what my desk looked like – cheat sheets and all! 

If you missed the live presentation here’s a link so you can watch it:

One of the big things I forgot to do was thank Vanessa Levin ( She’s my techie mentor and she held my hand through the whole process. THANK YOU, VANESSA!!!

I also want to thank Stephen Fite for hosting the webinar and Frog Street Press for sponsoring the event and making it FREE!

I get by with a little help from my friends, so I thank all of you who sent me positive thoughts yesterday! I once heard, “If you have a candle, then pass it on and all the world will shine brightly.” Over my 45 years as an educator teachers have shared with me, and I’m just trying to pass on the ideas to make your job more fun and put a smile on children’s faces.


Letter Necklace
First, make a letter necklace for each child. Cut out 3” circles from poster board, write the first letter of each child’s name on one circle, punch a hole in it, and thread it on a piece of 24” string to make a necklace for each child. Choose one child each day for the routine below:
1. Place the necklace in your lap and do a little “drum roll” by tapping your hands on your knees.
2. Give clues about the child’s name as you write the letters on the board. For example, “The mystery name today has four letters. This friend loves horses and is a good artist. This friend has brown hair and brown eyes. Who can it be?”
3. Present the child with their letter necklace as you sing this song to the Cookie Monster song “C Is for Cookie.”

     M is for Marcus,
     That’s good enough for me.
     M is for Marcus,
     That’s good enough for me.
     M is for Marcus,
     That’s good enough for me.
     Oh, Marcus, Marcus, Marcus starts with M.
4. Encourage children to name other words that start with /m/.
*Let children decorate their own letter necklaces with stickers, fake jewels, and glitter pens.

Giant Letters
Write the first letter in the child’s name on a large piece of poster board and cut it out. Place it at the art center with collage materials. Invite the children to help decorate the letter during the day. Display these letters on a special wall in your classroom.
*You could also send the cutout letter home with the child with instructions for parents to help him make a collage on it with pictures, photos, environmental print, and so on.

Sign Language
Teach children the manual sign for the first letter in their name. Dismiss children to line up by making the sign for their name.

Name Puzzle
Write each child’s name on a 10” sentence strip. Cut between the letters in the name and put them in an envelope. Write the child’s name on the front of the envelope. The children empty the envelope and put the letters together like a puzzle to spell the name.

Unifix Cubes
Place dot stickers on Unifix cubes. Write the first letter in each child’s name on one color and the remaining letters on another color as shown. Store these in a pencil box. Children can take the letters apart and then put them back together to spell their friends’ names.
Flap Book
Turn a brown paper lunch bag horizontally. Fold over the end as shown. Open the flap and print the child’s name so that only the first letter will show when you fold over the flap. Glue the child’s picture under the flap.
Sneak a Peek
Cut off the left edge of an envelope. Write one child’s name on a 12” sentence strip and glue his picture on the right end as shown in the illustration. Place the sentence strips inside the envelope. Children pull out one letter at a time as they predict whose name it will be.
Rub Overs
Write children’s names with school glue. Dry. Children place a piece of paper on top of the name and rub with the side of a crayon.
Push Pin
Write children’s names on sentence strips. Children place a sheet of construction paper on top of a carpet square or mouse pad. Next, place their name on top and punch around the letters with a jumbo push pin. When they hold the construction paper up to the light they will see their name.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


How about some activities to play with names as you nurture phonological awareness.

Willabee Wallabee

Here’s a good chant for rhyming. Substitute the first sound in each child’s name with a /w/.
Willabee wallabee Wohn.
An elephant sat on John.
Willabee wallabee Wue.
An elephant sat on Sue.

Bappy Birthday Bo Bou 
You can also substitute the first sound in each child’s name in the traditional birthday song. It’s silly, but they love it! Nick’s name would be:
Nappy nirthday no nou.
Nappy nirthday no nou.
Nappy nirthday near Nick.
Nappy nirthday no nou.

Alliterate the first sound in each child’s name as you say it in the Batman chant.
/m/ /m/ /m/ /m/ /m/ /m/ /m/ /m/  Max!
/h/ /h/ /h/ /h/ /h/ /h/ /h/ /h/ Heather!
*Cut a bat shape out of the front of a file folder. Insert paper and write each child’s name so it appears inside the bat. Hold up children’s names as you say the chant.


Invite the children to clap, snap, wiggle their hips, or make other motions for the syllables in their names.
*Use the children’s first and last name to make this more challenging.

Clap a Name
Cut out small hands from construction paper.  Glue them under children's pictures to indicate how many syllables in their names.  Make a book with their pictures and clap your hands!

Rhyme Game
Have the children think of words that rhyme with their classmates names. (They don’t have to be “real” words, as long as they rhyme.)
Example: Sophia, Bophia, Lophia
Sam, Bam, Ram, Lam

Sounds Like…
This is similar to the rhyming game except children think of words that begin like their friends’ names.

*Sing children's names in the "Alphardy Song" to practice alliteration.
     W for Will /w/ /w/ /w/
     B for Bella /b/ /b/ /b/ /b/ /b/ /b/
     H for Henry /h/ /h/ /h/
     C for Carolos /c/ /c/ /c/