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Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Thanks to all the teachers in Houston, Lake Charles, and Marquette, MI, who sang, danced, and shared some new ideas with me last week. 

Tying Shoes (Pam Rusnak)
Use two different colors of strings. 

*I think this is a brilliant idea that could really help children learn to tie their shoes.

Sign for Your Door (Monica Welch) 
My curriculum is NOT in a book.
It is in the mind of the child who walks through the door.

Attention Grabber (Patricia Young)
Look up, point to the ceiling, and move your hand as you make the “Ahhhh!” sound. The children will all get quiet and try to see what you are looking at.

Bunny Salad (Marie H. L’Anse, MI)
Here’s a healthy bunny snack.
Put a lettuce leaf on a plate.
Put half a pear upside down. (You can used canned pears or a peeled fresh pair.)
Add 2 cloves (or chocolate chips) for eyes.
Add 2 almond halves for ears.
Put a teaspoon of cottage cheese for a tail. 

Someone emailed and asked if I had a song to teach “heavy” and “light.” I didn’t, so I made this one up.
Heavy and Light (Tune: “Shortnin’ Bread”)
Heavy and light, (Tighten up arms like you're doing a bicep curl on 'heavy.'
Heavy and light, (Lift arms up in the air and open palms on 'light.)
Heavy and light,
give a little clap.

Bricks are heavy,
feathers are light,
heavy and light,
give a little clap.

Elephants are heavy,
butterflies are light,
heavy and light,
give a little clap.

Let children suggest other things that are heavy and light and insert them in the song.

Monday, March 30, 2015


How many times have teachers asked me, "What do I do with the child who wiggles all the time?"  My guest blogger Margaret Rice has some excellent suggestions today.  And, I'm sure you'll want to check out her website for more practical ideas.

Most classrooms have a few children who are constantly on the go. All children like to move but some have trouble settling down for activities that require sitting still and listening. Here are 5 suggestions to help movers and shakers during group activities such as circle time or large group instruction. 

1. Start the activity with a movement warm up. Depending upon your group of students you may need some whole body activities, crossing midline activities or simple stretches. When in doubt, activities that require heavy work such as pushing, pulling and jumping always work wonders. These types of activities help to activate the joints and muscles to get the body and brain ready to learn.

2. Mix up how and where the students are seated during group time. For example, can they stand to complete the activity, lay on their bellies on the floor, sit in a rocking chair, etc?

3. Use visual cues for personal space. During listening tasks, can each student sit on a carpet square or perhaps inside a hula hoop? Put painter’s tape on the floor around the student’s desk to indicate personal space.

4. Take a break half way through the lesson for an additional movement activity like a quick brain break. A few examples of easy brain breaks are: jump over a pencil on the floor 20x, run in place for 30 seconds, do 10 jumping jacks, etc.

Another option is to incorporate movement into the academic lesson. For example, look for .books that include animals, sports, transportation, or other movement type activities in the story. It will make it easier to incorporate actions while reading. Try reading the book through the first time. Then the second time you read it the children can act out the motions to go along with the story. Perhaps make some cards with the action verbs on it from the story. Use those cards during other times during the day for movement break activities.

5. Establish a routine that you stick to each group session. Every time you are leading a group try and keep the same routine. Over time, the students will know exactly what the expectations are helping to reduce negative behaviors. 

About the author: Margaret Rice is a pediatric physical therapist and owner of Your Therapy Source Inc., an online resource for sensory motor, fine motor and visual perceptual publications. You can download many free activities at

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Spring is popping out all over!!!

Popcorn Tree
(Tune: “Turkey in the Straw”)
I looked out my window (Hand over eyes.)
And what did I see?
Popcorn popping on my cherry tree. (Hands on hips.)
What a surprise spring left for me.
Popcorn popping in my cherry tree.
Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. (Wiggle hips to the beat.)
Pop! Pop! (Jump up twice.)

Sing faster…faster…super fast!

Popcorn Tree

Trace around the child’s hand and arm on a sheet of paper to resemble a tree trunk. Color or paint the tree. Glue popcorn or cotton balls on the branches to look like blossoms.

Hint! If you shake popcorn in a sack with a little dry tempera it will look like pink blossoms.

Flower Bookmark 
Grow into a book with this idea! Each child will need to collect small flowers, petals, and leaves outside. (Remind them to only take things off the ground and never pull live flowers from a plant!) Give each child 2 pieces of self laminating paper cut in 8” x 2” strips. Children take the back off one sheet and place it sticky side up on the table. After they arrange their natural objects, they place the second sheet on top and seal. 

Hint! You can also use wide packaging tape to make these book marks.

Flower Power 
Several weeks ago I shared an idea for making flowers from word families.  Look how beautiful Jeannie Podest's bulletin board turned out!

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Butterfly Handshake 
Extend your right thumb and hook it with your partner’s right thumb. Stick out your fingers and then flutter them around like a butterfly.

Caterpillar Finger Play

A caterpillar crawled to the top of a tree. (Hold up right arm and wiggle left index finger up like a caterpillar.)
I think I’ll take a nap said he. (Wiggle left index finger.)
Under a leaf he began to creep, (Wiggle left index finger under right palm.)
He spun a chrysalis and went to sleep. (Make fist with right hand around left index finger.)
Spring came along, shook him and said,
"Wake up, wake up, you sleepy head.” (Shake right fist.)
Out of the leaf he spread his wings to fly, (Hook right and left thumbs together. Spread out fingers like wings.)
“Look at me! Look at me! I’m a butterfly!” (Fly fingers around.)

Hint! Butterflies hatch from a chrysalis, a life stage made of a hardened protein. A cocoon is spun from silk and surrounds the pupa of many moths.

Baggie Butterfly

Make a butterfly by tearing up little pieces of colored tissue paper and putting them in a zip lunch bag. Gather up in the middle and twist on a pipe cleaner to make the body and antennae. Attach a string for flying.

Smoosh Painting
Cut butterfly shapes out of newsprint. Fold in half. Children drop paint with a spoon or eye dropper on one half. Fold and rub. Open to view a beautiful butterfly.

Life Cycle
Tell the lifecycle of the butterfly with a stick, a bean, and pasta. First, take children on a nature walk and ask them to find a stick that is as long as their arm from their wrist to their elbow. Glue the bean to the left of the stick for the egg. Next comes a spiral pasta for the caterpillar. Then a shell pasta for the chrysalis. Finally, a bow shaped pasta for the butterfly. 

Informative Writing
Let children write factual stories about the life cycle of a butterfly.
*How about a step book or flip book for this activity?

What does symmetry mean? Butterfly wings are a good example of symmetry. Cut paper into butterfly shapes and challenge children to make them symmetrical.
*Check out some books on butterflies from the library. Can children decorate their pattern to look like one in the book?

Friday, March 27, 2015


The Butterfly
(Tune: “Up on the Housetop”)
First comes the butterfly who lays an egg. (Clasp thumbs and wiggle fingers.)
Out comes a caterpillar with many legs. (Wiggle index finger.)
Oh, see the caterpillar spin and spin, (Roll hands.)
A little chrysalis to sleep in. (Insert right index finger in left fist.)
Oh, oh, oh, look and see. (Hands over eyes.)
Oh, oh, oh, look and see.
Out of the chrysalis, my, oh, my,
Out comes a beautiful butterfly. (Clasp thumbs and make butterfly.) 

Let children dramatize this song. Curl up like an egg, wiggle like a caterpillar, twirl around to be a chrysalis and flap arms and fly like a butterfly. 

Make a butterfly puppet from an old sock. Glue pom poms to the toe of the sock for the eyes and mouth.
Turn the sock inside out and glue a butterfly made out of felt.
Begin the song with your hand in the sock. When the caterpillar spins a chrysalis pull the top of the sock down over the toe. Turn the sock inside out to reveal the butterfly at the end.

Butterfly Bites
Children will enjoy assembling and eating this butterfly. You will need celery cut in 4” pieces, cream cheese, and pretzel twists. First, spread cream cheese in the hollow part of the celery. Insert two pretzels on either side for wings.
Hint! Make a language experience chart with the directions so children can make these at a center.

There is a story about children that is similar to butterflies. If you find a chrysalis before it hatches and you gently try to open it, the butterfly will not live and it will never be able to spread its wings and fly. Children are like that as well. If we try to push them and force them to do things before they are ready, will they ever be able to reach their full potential and truly fly?

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Here Is a Bunny
Here is a bunny (Hold up index and middle fingers.)
With ears so funny. (Wiggle fingers.)
And here is his
Hole in the ground. (Make hole with fist of the other hand.)
At the slightest noise he hears,
He pricks up his ears, (Wiggle fingers.)
Then hops to his
Hole in the ground! (Pretend to hop bunny ears into the hole.)

Handprint Bunny

Trace around children's hands and cut them out.  Cut off the middle finger and bring the pinky finger and thumb finger down to make arms as shown.  Decorate and there's your bunny!

Where Is My Bunny?
Where is my bunny? (Put hands behind your back.)
No one can see. (Shake head.)
I think that my bunny
Is hiding from me. (Look over shoulder.)
Here is my bunny. (Hold up 1 thumb.)
He’s found a friend. (Hold up other thumb.)
Look at all the others. (Slowly stick up fingers.)
Now there are ten! (Wiggle fingers.)
Bunny Ears
Cut ears out of construction paper and glue them to a headband. You can also trace around children's feet and use them for the ears of the headband.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Flip, Flop, Hop
(Tune: “Wheels on the Bus”)
The ears on the bunny go flip, flop, flop (Hands over head and wiggle.)
Flip, flop, flop,
Flip, flop, flop.
The ears on the bunny go flip, flop, flop,
Flip, flip, flop.

The nose on the bunny goes twitch, twitch, twitch… (Wiggle nose.)

The eyes on the bunny go blink, blink, blink… (Blink eyes.)

The tail on the bunny goes wiggle, wobble, wobble… (Wiggle hips.)

The feet on the bunny go hop, hop, hop… (Hop up and down.)

Drawing Rabbits - Teach children how to draw a bunny from two circles. Add detail to the bunny as you sing the song.
*You can also make bunnies out of play dough.

Bunny Basket – Fold the sack in half lengthwise as shown. Draw ears on the sack similar to those shown. Cut on the lines and then cut off the sides. Open the sack. Staple the top points to make ears. Put a face and cotton tail on your bunny basket.

Milk Jug Bunny – Ask parents to send in clean milk jugs. Cut the top off as shown. Add ears and a bunny’s face. Place a small amount of dirt in the bottom of the milk jug and sprinkle with grass seed. Water and place in a sunny window. If you start this project soon you will have an adorable bunny with green hair!  Otherwise, you can just put Easter grass inside.

A Bunny Tale (Tell and Draw Story)
1. One day a man went walking with his arms behind his back.
2. It started to snow.
3. He got a sled so he could play in the snow.
4. But after awhile he got cold and decided to build himself a house with two stories.
5. He put two windows in the top floor and divided them in half.
6. Then he built two chimneys.
7. He threw some sticks on the fire.
8. And soon he was snug as a bunny. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


I was looking through some old ideas and I found this gem! What a perfect way to develop social skills and thinking strategies. Talk about simple, meaningful, and FREE! 
Divide students into pairs. Ask a question. Partners discuss the answer and then stoop down on the floor when they agree. When all groups are on the floor the teacher says, “One, two, three…” as the students pop up and say the answer together.
*Use this for recalling details from a story, unit review, math word problems, and so forth. 

*It might be helpful to assign study buddies on Monday that children can partner with all week.  What's a study buddy?  That's your special partner for the week.  This can eliminate lots of confusion for partner activities.

Mother Nature might have played a trick on the first day of spring last week in Verona, NY, with a snow shower, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the teachers at the BOCES workshop.

Nursery Rhyme Back Pack
Make a backpack from a lunch bag. On the outside put a picture of the nursery rhyme. Glue the words to the other side. Inside put pictures of characters from the rhyme. Children can take this home and use it to retell the nursery rhyme.

Who Let the Letters Out? (Andrea Williams)
Make pointers from clear colored plastic. (You can make these from colored clear dividers that are for binders.) Have a poster with letters and objects that begin with each sound. Cut apart a similar poster and put the letters in the bag. (Put Velcro on them so they can stick on the alphabet grid.) Children take turns choosing a letter and they get to be Dr. Jean and say, “Who let the (name letter) out?” They get to highlight the letter at the same time as the class makes the letter sound. 

Letter Identification (Ann Pangburn)
As you sing alphabet songs, surprise the children by turning off the song at different points.  Children then have to find the letter on classroom print and touch it.  With music and movement the children will be able to connect letters with letter names.  Stronger students will naturally help weaker friends find letters.

Number Raps (Erika Knudsen)
(Tune: Cadence)
Teenage numbers are really fun.
That’s because they start with one.
One and five is 15.
One and nine is 19…etc.

Twenties, twenties are so fine.
They start like a two every single time.

Thirties, thirties are the best.
They start like a 3 unlike the rest.

Talk Show (Kathy Leers)
Pretend to be a host on a talk show and interview your students. You could do the star of the week, or let a student pretend to be a character from a book.
*Allow them to prepare 3 or 4 questions ahead of time on index cards.

Monday, March 23, 2015


Chris Baker sent me a video that he created for "Pepperoni Pizza" and I thought it was AWESOME. Teachers like Chris inspire me with their technical creativity. I'll let Chris tell you a little more about it...

What kid does not love Pepperoni Pizza? Bring pizza and music together and
we have a party! Learning beginning sounds can be a challenge for some
children. Music tends to break the barriers; add some visual slides to the
music and they just seem to be mesmerized. When teaching young learners
the foundation skills of the English language, I find it's best to teach the
same skill as many different ways as possible, especially in the early
years until third grade. I sing, dance, and act goofy right along with
them. If they see me singing or reading and enjoying it, it makes them want
to do it that much more.

When I made my first slide show, I did it because I thought it would help
my children better understand word families (
being able to see the words with the music and then throw a picture in
there to give the word some meaning. I started out just clicking the slides
along with the music, but then I thought; can I make a movie with this? So,
I read up and learned about Windows Movie Maker and found that I could
export my PowerPoint slides as photos, and then upload them to Movie
Maker. Granted, it does take some time and patience to get the timing of
the slides just right to the music, but it was well worth it.

It’s been two years, and what seems like a lifetime ago, since I made that
first slide show. Lately, I have had some extra time and decided to give it
another go; Pepperoni Pizza ( came to life (I
think it came out better too.) I think this will let kids see that changing
just the first letter can create new words and sometimes nonsense words;
it's important to know the difference. By doing it I learned about words
that I did not even know before, like leat ( a millstream) and loo ( a
bathroom).  Who would have guessed these were not nonsense words? It goes
to show you, teaching is learning too. Thank you Dr. Jean. Your songs are
an inspiration.

Christopher N. Baker, MAT

To learn more about Christopher Baker, go to

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Peck, peck, peck, 
On the soft little egg. 
Out comes a neck.
Out comes a leg.
How does a chick
Who’s not been about
Discover the secret
Of how to get out?

This is a great poem to read together again and again. Ask children how they think the chick gets out of the egg. Why do birds need a beak?

Here’s a craft activity to go along with the poem. Cut two ovals out of construction paper. Decorate one with crayons and then cut a zig zag down the middle. Make a head for your bird out of a circle and small orange triangle. Use brad fasteners to attach the head and the wings. Children can unfold the egg as they repeat the rhyme.

What’s in the Egg?
First, brainstorm all the different animals that come out of an egg. Now, you’re ready to make a flip book called “What’s in the Egg?” Fold a sheet of paper in half lengthwise, then fourths and eighths. Open and cut the crease to the middle fold. Fold in half to make 4 little flaps. Children draw eggs on the front of each flap. Open the flaps and challenge children to draw 4 different things that might come from an egg. When they hold this book up to the light, they will see their little critters inside the egg.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


I've told this story recently at my workshops and many teachers have asked me to share it on my blog. Begin this story with a sheet of paper, scissors, and marker in your lap. Follow the directions as you tell the story. (You can either cut the paper or tear it.) 

It was spring time and mother and father bird decided to build a nest. Who can tell me some of the things they might have used to make their nest?
(Fold the paper in half and cut accordingly.)

Mother bird sat on the nest and laid a beautiful egg.  (Open the nest to reveal the egg shape.)
Now, mother bird could not leave the egg. She had to sit on it and keep it warm and safe. Even when it rained and the wind blew hard, mother bird had to sit there and protect her egg. Fortunately, two little bugs who lived in the tree made friends with mother bird and kept her company. This is one little bug. His name was _____. (Use a child’s name in the class.)
(Draw a little dot for the bug.)
This is the other little bug. Her name was _____, (Use another child’s name in the class.)
(Draw another little dot on the opposite side.)

One day as mother bird was sitting on the egg, she heard a little cracking sound. She looked down and saw a little crack in her egg.  (Cut a little slit on the fold slanted toward the eyes.)

Then she heard a great big cracking sound.  
(Cut around the eye and slit as shown stopping before you get to the end of the egg.)
And guess what mother bird saw coming out of the big crack in her egg? She saw her baby bird!  (Open the egg and bend up the beak as shown.)
Hint! You can also cut this story out of a paper plate.

Friday, March 20, 2015


Two Little Bluebirds
Two little bluebirds sitting on a hill. (Stick up both thumbs.) 
One named Jack (Wiggle right thumb.)
And one named Jill. (Wiggle left thumb.)
Fly away Jack. (Put right thumb behind back.)
Fly away Jill (Put left thumb behind back.)
Come back Jack. (Bring back right thumb.)
Come back Jill. (Bring back left thumb.)

Opposite variations:
One named Happy and one named Sad… (Say happy and then sad.)
One named Loud and one named Soft… (Say loud and then soft.)
One named Fast and one named Slow… (Move one fast and one slow.)
Continue letting children think of names and motions for the birds.

Paper Plate Birds and Nests
Let children make birds or nests out of paper plates similar to the ones in the picture.

Bird Puppet
One more little “bird” day project that’s made with felt, glue, and a wiggly eye.
Cut out two bird bodies similar to the one shown. Cut out the wings on the fold. Glue around the edges leaving a 2” opening in the bottom where you can insert your finger. Cut a 2” slot in the top and insert the wings. Add a beak, eyes, and you’re ready to fly.

*Call it “Word Bird” and let children wear it to read words.
*Use it to track from left to write as you read chorally or count on the calendar.
*Play the “quiet game” with word bird. One child wears the bird and says:
Blue bird, blue bird, how quiet can you be? (Insert whatever color.)
Fly to a quiet friend, one, two, three.

The child passes the bird to a quiet friend who comes to the front of the room and the game continues.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


Do you hear the birds singing their spring song when you wake up in the morning? It’s a happy time of year for critters and people! And, it’s time for the children to start singing this song. It’s silly, but they love it! 

Birdies (Happy Everything CD)
Way up in the sky (Put hands in arm pits and flap arms
The big birdies fly. like a bird.)
Way down in the nest (Make a nest by cupping hands.)
The little birds rest.
With a wing on the left, (Wiggle left arm like a wing.)
And a wing on the right, (Wiggle right arm like a wing.)
The little birds sleep (Put head down on palms as if sleeping.)
All through the night.
SHHHHHH! (Put finger over lips.)
Then up comes the sun. (Put arms over your head.)
The dew falls away. (Bring down palms.)
Good morning! Good morning! (Put open palms around your head.)
The little birds say.

Sing and Act
Let children dramatize this song. Choose one child to be the mother or father bird. Let the other children be the baby birds.

Lunch Sack Nest
Open a paper lunch sack and roll out and down until you reach the bottom and it looks like a nest. Children can roll play dough eggs for the nest, or they can make a paper bird for the nest.

*Make the shape of a tree on a bulletin board. Staple the nests in the tree and then let children make birds out of construction paper to go in the nests.

*Staple on a pipe cleaner handle and you've got a little 
Easter basket.

Bird Nest Snack
Give each child a Rice Crispie treat to mold into a nest. Put a few jelly beans in the nest and place a marshmallow “peep” on top. (Yeah, I know this is total junk and you probably can’t do it at school, but my grandkids enjoyed making these for our Easter dinner last year.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


I hear spring calling, don’t you? Come out and play! Come out and learn! Friday is the “official” first day of spring, so let’s get started! 

Spring Hunt
Make a worksheet with signs of spring that children could find on your playground. Divide children into groups of 2 and attach a copy of the spring things to a clipboard. Partners can color in the objects that they find as they walk around the playground. 

Scavenger Hunt
Here’s a spring hunt for older students. Divide them into groups of 4 and give each group a clipboard with the items below. Have them record their answers. When you return to the classroom groups can share their results and compare answers.

Spring Scavenger Hunt
Can you find a sign of spring? 

Can you find something older than you? 

Can you find something younger than you? 

Can you find something rough? 

Can you find something that feels soft? 

Can you find something living? 

Can you find something dead? 

Can you find something smaller than your fingernail? 

Can you find something bigger than you? 

Can you find something green? 

Can you find something yellow? 

Can you find something that smells good? 

Can you find some trash? Pick it up and throw it away! 

Spring Acrostic 

After a spring walk, have children write the word spring vertically down the left side of their paper. Can they write a word (or sentence) for each letter that is a sign or symbol of spring? 
Hint! With younger children do this as an interactive writing activity.

Have children make a web of spring using words or drawings.

Spring Words 

How many words can they write from the letters in “spring”?
The information available to teachers now on the internet is mind boggling!! I found this website when I was looking for spring ideas and it seemed to offer some activities…and it’s FREE!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Funny, but I bet some of you don't even know what a ditto is. A ditto is what we called worksheets before copy machines. They were purple and they smelled like rubbing alcohol. Anyway, years ago a supervisor said, "If a child can do a ditto, it's a waste of time. If a child can't do a ditto, it's a waste of time. Why do dittoes?" Times have changed, but the concept is the same. Worksheets hit at the middle of the classroom. Advanced students don't need to do them, and struggling students can't do them. So, what can you do instead of worksheets?

You can’t get any better than a BLANK sheet of paper! Give children a sheet of paper and challenge them to come up with their own learning activity.

Make a blank book. 

Use a visual graphic. 

Play a game. 

Create something – puppet, collage, painting, play dough! 

How about a computer search? 

Do a project with a partner. 


Write on with a poem, song, rap, or skit.

Use media, such as a camera, video recorder, etc.

Happy St. Patty's Day!  Keep looking for that pot of gold!

Monday, March 16, 2015


Deserve the smartest teachers in the world – and that’s YOU!!!

I’m finally getting around to doing my book report (I thought I was too old for those) on THE SMARTEST KIDS IN THE WORLD by Amanda Ripley. This book was a little long and difficult to get through. However, it is a “hot” read right now and I’m going to give you my “Cliff Notes” version today.

This all started in the early 2000’s with the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which was designed to measure students’ ability to think critically and solve new problems in math, reading, and science. Amanda Ripley set out to solve this mystery: Why were some kids learning so much –and others so little? She also wanted to explore why children’s skills rose so high in Finland and South Korea and the US scores continued to plummet. Interestingly enough, (and I quote) “Our elementary students did fine on international tests, thank you very much, especially in reading. The problems arose in math and science, and they became most obvious when our kids grew into teenagers.” (See, all of you early childhood teachers are doing a great job!!!)

The book focused on three American teenagers who spent a year as foreign exchange students. A boy from MN went to Korea, a girl from OK went to Finland, and another boy from PA went to Poland. Their experiences were quite diverse and quite surprising. One thing I learned was that I would NOT like to be a high school student in Korea. Talk about long hours, a pressure cooker, and competition! And, can you imagine high school with out sports teams and extra-curricular activities?

Here are the key thoughts I gleaned from the book:

Attendance in some kind of early childhood program had real and lasting benefits.

Countries who scored higher than the US used less technology in their schools.

What parents did at home mattered significantly. Reading to children and talking about school was very important. Parents showed their children they valued education by asking about school, what they learned, what they liked, etc.
*Not only did reading to children increase scores, but parents who modeled reading for pleasure had a significant impact.

In countries with high test scores teachers were respected, paid more, and given more latitude to accomplish goals. They had autonomy to do their jobs.

At the end of the day/book, I’m proud to be an American. You can’t compare oranges and apples, and we still have the best education system in the world. I know that because the most desirable country for higher education remains the United States of America!!!! 

Let's hear it for the GREATEST kids and teachers in the world!!!