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Sunday, May 31, 2015


How about some summertime snacks today?

Fire Cracker Sandwich
Peanut butter, jelly, or other favorite sandwich filling
Clear plastic wrap
Yarn or ribbon
Cut the crusts off the bread. Flatten the bread with a rolling pin. (The children just like to "smush" it with their hand.) Spread on your sandwich filling. Roll up tightly like a jelly roll. Wrap in a piece of plastic wrap. Twist the ends of the plastic wrap and tie with a piece of ribbon. It will look like a firecracker! 

Edible Mud Pies
Instant chocolate pudding
2 cups cold milk
Flat bottom ice cream cones
Plastic container with tight sealing lid
(Place the pudding mix in the plastic container before starting this activity.) Ask the children if they've ever had mud pies. Tell them you have and they're delicious. Show them the container and explain that it's dirt. Pass it around and let them smell it. (Be cool and don't let on!) Build vocabulary by talking about how dry the dirt is. What's the difference between dirt and mud? Suggest adding a liquid and pour in the two cups milk. Seal tightly, then pass the container around the group, encouraging each child to "shake, shake, shake." Open it up and have the children describe what happened. Serve in the ice cream cones.
Adaptations: Add seeds (sunflowers) and a worm (gummy worm). 

*If you can find pistachio pudding you can make alligator pie.

Trail Mix
pretzel sticks
fish crackers
chocolate chips
ice cream cones
Mix all the ingredients together and serve in an ice cream cone.
Yippee ti yi yo! No mess because you can just eat the cone when you’re through with the mix.
*Use cheese crackers, sunflower seeds, M&Ms, or other dry cereals in your trail mix. 
Ants on a Log
peanut butter
Take a stalk of celery (the log). Spread peanut butter (mud) in the celery. Place raisins (ants) on top of the peanut butter. March the ants into you mouth! MMMM!
*Use cream cheese instead of peanut butter to make “birds in the snow.”

Ice Cream in a Bag
1 gallon size heavy duty zip bag
1 sandwich size heavy duty zip bag
1 cup whole milk
1 heaping teaspoon of sugar
1 squirt chocolate or strawberry syrup
2 handfuls of ice
1 tablespoon rock salt
Pour the milk, sugar, and chocolate in the sandwich bag and zip. Place that bag in the larger bag, and then fill with ice. Sprinkle on the salt and zip shut. Throw the bag up and down for about 10 minutes until it starts to harden.
*Wear mittens or gloves to keep your hands warm.
*You can also make homemade ice cream with a small and a large coffee can. Fill the smaller can with the ice cream mixture. Place it in the larger can and pack with ice and salt. Children can “kick the can” until it freezes.

Pudding Pops

1 large (4oz.) package of regular pudding mix (not instant)
3 cups milk
large marshmallows
popsicle sticks
paper cups
aluminum foil
Stir the pudding mix and milk until well blended. Fill cups half full with the pudding mixture. Put a marshmallow on the end of the popsicle sticks, then insert them in the cups. Cover with foil to keep the marshmallows down. Freeze and enjoy!
*For healthier frozen treats, freeze fruit juice, yogurt, or smoothies.

Life Preserver Sandwich
Cream cheese
Blue food coloring
Fish Crackers
Add a few drops of blue food coloring to the cream cheese. Let the children spread the cream cheese on one half of a bagel. Decorate with 4 or 5 fish crackers.

Saturday, May 30, 2015


Summer’s the perfect time for getting messy and being creative! 

Mud Pies
(Not edible, but definitely great fun!)
4 cups dirt
1 cup flour
Mix the dirt and flour with water until it molds and sticks together. Shape into cookies, pies, birds nests, and other shapes. Dry in the sun.

Squirt! Squirt!
Save spray bottles from cleaning products. (Make sure you rinse them out well first!). Fill them with water and let the children squirt each other, water plants, clean lawn furniture, etc.
Adaptations: A sponge or paintbrush and a bucket of water will also entertain children for hours. They can sponge off a tree, their riding toys, or themselves. They can paint the house or playground equipment.

Bubble Cups
Liquid dish detergent
Fill the cup half way with water. Squirt in some dish detergent. Give children a straw and tell them to BLOW! (If you'll put a pin prick at the top of the straw, it's less likely that they'll suck up soapy water. I also have children practice blowing on their hand with the straw before we begin so they'll get the idea.) The bubbles will spill over the cup and are fun to pat on arms, legs, etc. It's great to run through the sprinkler after you "paint" your body with bubbles.
Adaptations: Add a drop of food coloring to the solution to make colored bubbles.
*Give children a pan of water and an egg beater. (Most children have never seen one of these before except in books!) Add a squirt of detergent to the water and let them "beat" up some bubbles.

Rub A Dub Dub
Have children bring their washable dolls to school. Fill tubs with water and soap, then have a bathing party. Add sponges, wash clothes, and squirt bottles.
Adaptations: Let children wash doll clothes and hang them on a clothesline with spring clothespins.

Water Painting
Give children plastic containers (margarine tubs, ice cream containers, etc.) filled with water. Let them use paint brushes to “paint” the playground equipment, trees, toys, etc.

Sandbox Treasures
Hide shells and other small toys in a sandbox and let the children “dig” for treasures.

Boat Builders
Let children construct boats from two toilet paper rolls stapled together. Glue a triangular piece of construction paper to a craft stick and stick it between the rolls to make a sail.
 *Mold boats from aluminum foil.
 *Carve a boat from a bar of Ivory soap. Glue paper to a toothpick and insert it in the soap to make a sail. Make a raft from popsicle sticks. Lay down two sticks. Glue ten sticks on top of them. Dry and then decorate with markers.
 *Give children recycled materials (trash and scraps) to use to create boats and things that float.


Friday, May 29, 2015


Hiker’s Necklace
(My kids loved making these, although it might be difficult to find film containers now.) Using a hammer and nail, make a hole in the bottom of a film container and in the lid. Cut a piece of cord or string that can easily go over the child’s head and thread it through the holes. Decorate with stickers and markers. Put a band-aid, the child’s name and address, a piece of gum, etc. inside.

Sit Upon
Cut paper grocery sacks into 12” squares. Each child will need two. Punch holes around the edges and then sew three sides together with yarn. (Wrap a piece of tape around the end of the yarn to make a needle.) Stuff with newspaper strips and then sew up the fourth side. Sit “upon” it for a story, sing along, or picnic.
*Let children decorate the squares before sewing them together.

Sun Visor
Cut a moon shape from a paper plate. Decorate with markers or crayons. Punch holes in the ends and tie on string so you can tie it around the head.

Nature Bracelet
Put a piece of masking tape or packaging tape with the sticky side out on each child’s wrist to make a bracelet. Children attach small leaves, flowers, etc. to the tape to make a nature bracelet. 

Sticky Picture
Cut clear contact paper into small rectangles and give one to each child. Peel off the back and then let children apply leaves, flowers, and other small objects to the sticky side.
*Cover with another piece of contact paper and use as a place mat.

Pet Rocks
Let each child find a rock that they can hold in their hand. After cleaning their rocks, let them decorate the rocks with paints, wiggly eyes, yarn hair, etc. Ask the children to name their pet rocks and make up a story about their rocks.

Nature Rubbings
Let children collect objects with different textures on the playground. Remove the paper from several crayons. Place paper over the objects and then rung gently with the side of the crayon. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015


Tents are fun to build, hide in, read a book, or play in with a friend.

Card Table Tent
Drape a blanket over a card table or picnic table. Spread a sleeping bag on the ground for a cozy retreat.

Porch Railing Tent
Pin one end of a blanket to the railing of a deck or porch. Pull out the opposite end and secure at an angle with bricks or rocks. This is a "cool" place for a game or nap from the summer sun.

Back Pack 
You will need a grocery sack, a small piece of Velcro, and two strips of fabric cut 2” by 24” for this project. Cut off three sides of the sack half way down. Fold down the remaining side and secure with Velcro. To add straps, cut four 2 ½” slits on the back. Thread the strips of fabric through that and tie the ends in knots. Let children decorate with markers or crayons. 

Cardboard Castle
An appliance box or other large box can be a "castle" to a child. Cut out doors and a window with a utility knife. (An adult will need to do this!) Let the children decorate with paints, markers, or crayons.

Here's another cool project you can do with a cardboard box.

Car Wash
Cut the top and bottom out of an appliance box and place it on its side so it looks like a tunnel. Cut the bottom off of a large plastic garbage bag. Cut up the seam on one side to open the bag. Cut 2" strips up from the bottom of the bag stopping 3 inches from the top of the bag. Tape the garbage bag to the top of the box to create the swishers, then let the children ride their toys through the box.

Dress Up
Do you have an old suitcase in the attic or basement? Find some old shoes, hats, jewelry, nightgowns, or other old clothes and let the children play dress-up.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


How about some outdoor art activities? These activities can be adapted for field day, a beach party, or summer camp.  

Dirt Painting
Materials: dirt, water, plastic container, brushes, paper
Directions: Mix the dirt with water to make a thick liquid. Paint a picture with brushes or with fingers.
Adaptations: Look for different types of soil to create different shades of “dirt” paint.

Ice Cube Painting
Materials: plastic ice cube tray, paint, craft sticks, paper
Directions: Pour paint in ice cube trays and insert a craft stick in each section. Freeze. Pop the “paint cubes” out of the tray and swirl around on the paper. As the paint melts, it will create a design.
Adaptations: Make similar ice cubes with water and liquid water color.
Wheel Painting
Materials: toy cars, trucks, and other vehicles with wheels, paint, newsprint or large sheets of paper, paper plates
Directions: Put a small amount of paint in the paper plates. Dip the wheels of the vehicles in the paint, and then “drive” them across the paper.
Adaptations: Give children rubber fishing worms and dip them in paint. Wiggle across a sheet of paper to make designs.
Food Color Dip
Materials: 4 small cups, food coloring, paper towels, water
Directions: Take the cups and put water and a large squirt of food coloring in each cup. Children take a paper towel and fold it into a small square. They dip each corner in a different color. Open and dry.
Fence Painting
Materials: large sheets of paper, clothespins, paints, paint brushes
Directions: Attach large sheets of paper to a fence with clothespins.
Children can freely paint on the paper.

Fly Swatter Painting
Materials:  butcher paper, fly swatter, paint, paper plate

Directions:  Tape a large sheet of butcher paper to a fence. Put a small amount of paint on a paper plate. Let children dip a fly swatter in paint and then “swat” it on the paper.
*Let children make bugs out of thumbprints on the paper before using the fly swatters. 

Window Painting
Materials: shaving cream (non-menthol)
Directions: Squirt shaving cream on windows and let children fingerpaint. Clean up is easy with a hose.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Enough academics!!  Time to go outside and PLAY!  Here are some great ideas to get kids moving this summer.  

Fitness/Learning Trail 
Get scrap cardboard, a marker, tape, and you’ll be set to make your own fitness trail. Cut the cardboard into 8” x 10” pieces. Write different body and brain exercises on each card and tape to different locations on your playground. For example:
            10 jumping jacks
            say a nursery rhyme
            8 windmills
            count backwards from 20
            12 squats
            name your city, state, and country
            15 sit ups
            name 5 insects
            7 push ups
            sing the ABC’s forwards and then backwards 

Broomstick Hockey 
You will need children's brooms and a rubber ball for this game. Children hit the ball with the broom and try to get it in a box or designated area.

Take several empty liter bottles from water or soft drinks and arrange them in a triangle. Children stand behind a line and roll a ball, trying to knock down the plastic bottles. Count how many they knock down. Let children can take turns rolling the ball and setting up the bottles for each other.
Hint! Fill the bottles with water if it’s a windy day.

Bouncy Ball Lane
Draw a path on the sidewalk with chalk. Children take balls and try to bounce them on the designated line.

Goofy Golf
You will need several empty cardboard containers from fried chicken, popcorn, ice cream, etc. Turn the containers upside down and cut an arch out of the bottom similar to a mouse hole. Set the containers up on the grass and let the children practice hitting golf balls in the holes.
*You can also make a golf course with hula hoops.
*Use small brooms and tennis balls instead of golf clubs.

Paddle Ball
To make paddles, place two paper plates together and staple ¾ of the way around. Insert the hand and use like a paddle. Roll up a scrap piece of paper to make a ball.

Balloon Tennis
Bend two coat hangers into diamond shapes. Stretch the legs of panty hose over the diamonds and knot at the end. Bend up the hook of the hangers and tape it to make handles. Blow up a balloon and you’re set of a tennis match!

Can Catch
You will need a tennis ball and empty Pringle’s can for this game. Children bounce the ball and try to catch it in the can. They can place this game by themselves or with a friend. 


Monday, May 25, 2015


It is right and it is good to take a moment today and discuss Memorial Day and what it means. If I didn’t write this blog I wouldn’t know that Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering the men and women who died while serving, and Veterans Day celebrates all U.S. military veterans.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day because people decorated the gravesites of those who died during the Civil War. Many cities and towns claim the birthplace of Memorial Day, but I’d like to share the story from Charleston.

During the Civil War Union soldiers who were prisoners were held at the Hampton Park Race Course in Charleston. Over 250 prisoners died and were buried in unmarked graves. The freedmen cleaned up the burial ground and added an arch that said “Martyrs of the Race Course.” On May 1, 1865, some 10,000 black residents of Charleston, along with teachers and white missionaries from the north, gathered to commemorate the war dead. The parade was led by three thousand black school children, followed by women with baskets of flowers and wreaths and men marching in cadence. The children sang “We'll Rally around the Flag,” the “Star-Spangled Banner,” and other gospel songs. Many stayed at the park for picnics and fellowship.
Inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael wrote her own poem in 1915:
            We cherish too, the Poppy red

            That grows on fields where valor led,

            It seems to signal to the skies
            That blood of heroes never dies.
Moina Michael was the first to wear a red poppy to honor those who died during war. She sold them to her friends and co-workers to raise money to benefit servicemen. The tradition has spread around the world.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.

And, thanks for taking a moment with me today as we count our blessings and say, “I’M PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!”

Sunday, May 24, 2015


This should be called Carolyn Kisloski's "Reading Recipes" instead of Dr. Jean's because she contributed the most to this book. If you've been to Carolyn's blog (Kindergarten: Holding Hands and Sticking Together you already know how talented and refreshing her ideas are. I just feel so blessed to have met her and had the opportunity to collaborate with her on this project. The photographs Carolyn took of the children in her class are "proof of the pudding." Yes, you can take your standards and turn them into activities children enjoy doing!

Our goal was to give you quick, easy ideas that would make standards "taste" better. We wanted to share some tried and true activities for large group, small group, and centers that would turn "work" into "play." Our categories are:

Speaking and Listening
The Sounds of Speech
Print Connections
Fun Phonics
Lifetime Words
Vocabulary Builders
I'm Reading!
I'm Writing!

Our editor, Tom Schiele, is a master producer - like a nice Gordon Ramsey. We are so pleased with the way he fused our ideas and has created a culinary buffet. Here's a link where you can check it out.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Summertime isn’t official until June 21st, but if you ask me Memorial Day should be the first day of summer. Summer always brings lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and it’s time to start grillin’! If you’re looking for ideas for your classroom today, you need to turn off your computer and PLAY! Come back tomorrow for teacher talk, but today I'd like to  share some of my favorite summer recipes. These are good for a cook out, potluck, or a family treat. 

Around holidays I like to remember what most nutritionists advocate: ALL THINGS IN MODERATION! Splurge a little this weekend and then get back to the rabbit food on Tuesday. 

Bon appetite!

P.S. I LOVE to try out new recipes, so if you have a favorite summer dish please send it to me.

Mac and Cheese from Heaven
(Yeah, I know everybody thinks their mac and cheese recipe is the best, but this rivals anything I’ve ever tasted.)
1 16 oz. box rigatoni noodles
8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 oz. shredded Monterey Jack
4 oz. grated fresh Parmesan
2 cups heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Season with salt (til’ it tastes like sea water). Add the pasta and cook until just tender - about 12 minutes. Drain well in a colander without rinsing.

Transfer pasta to a large bowl. Add half the cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Parmesan, reserving the remaining half of the cheeses for the top. Add heavy cream and stir to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer the noodle mixture to a medium gratin dish or casserole. Sprinkle remaining cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Parmesan on top. Bake until bubbly and golden brown, 30 – 45 minutes.

Brownie Pie
(This is so yummy and simple, and it’s made with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. It’s really good served warm with a scoop of ice cream on top. Or, if you want to send someone into a coma, drizzle hot chocolate sauce on top of the ice cream.)

1 cup sugar
1 stick butter (softened)
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Bake a deep dish pie crust at 350 for 6-7 minutes.
Mix ingredients together. Pour into the pie crust. Bake about 30 minutes.
(The original recipe said 30 minutes, but it takes a lot longer than that in my oven. You can tell when it’s done with the toothpick trick.) 
Vidalia Onion Pie
(Vidalia onions are the best, but you can use other sweet onions.)
1 ¼ cup cracker crumbs (Ritz)
6 TB. melted butter
2 cups Vidalia onions thinly sliced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup milk
¾ tsp. salt – dash of pepper
½ cup mild cheddar cheese, grated

Mix together crumbs and 4 TB of butter and press into an 8” pie plate. Chill. Saute onions in 2 TB of butter. Spoon into the crust. Mix the eggs and milk with the spices. Pour over the onions. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. (Sprinkle with cheese for the last 10 minutes.)

Cowboy Beans
1 16 oz. can pork and beans
1 can pinto beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 large onion chopped
1 small pepper chopped
½ cup barbeque sauce
¼ brown cup sugar
1 TB Worcestershire sauce, 1 TB mustard
1 lb. ground beef, browned

Mix all together. Bake at 350 for an hour or for 6-7 hours in a crock pot.          

Friday, May 22, 2015


Alex May, my webmaster, created this little video to go with my “Elephant Song.”

Here’s a simple puppet you can make or the children could bring an old sock from home and make their own. This project ties in well with HORTON HEARS A WHO or SEVEN BLIND MICE. 

Materials: 1 white paper plate, 1 old sock, crayons, 2 brad fasteners, 1 gray sheet construction paper

Directions: Cut 2 ears out of gray construction paper. Cut a circle large enough for your hand out of the middle of the paper plate. (Color the plate gray if you desire.) Draw a face on the plate as shown. Attach the 2 ears to the sides of the plate with brad fasteners. Insert your hand in the sock, and then stick the sock through the back of the plate to create the elephant's nose.

Elephants walk like this and that.

They're terribly big and terribly fat. 

They have no hands, they have no toes.

But, goodness, gracious, what a nose!

Think about it! Why do elephants have long noses? How do they use their noses? What would you do with a long nose? (These could be prompts for a discussion or writing assignment.)

Thursday, May 21, 2015


It’s almost summer, and that means the planes will be full of some happy children, some screaming children, some bored children, and some entertained children! I’m writing this blog in hopes that teachers can share these ideas with families of children they teach. You can put this on your class website, blog, or send it home with a summer fun packet.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when you travel with children. And if you’ll read these tips, I bet your fellow passengers will thank you for being on top of the game! Take advantage of the one-on-one time with your child by giving them 100% of your attention. After all, isn’t family time the best part of any vacation?

Planning Ahead
Several days before the trip start talking about your adventure and give details about what is going to happen. Have children close their eyes as you describe the trip – checking in at the airport - going through security - waiting for your flight to be called – getting on the plane and fastening your seatbelt – taking off – looking out the window – landing – how much fun you’ll have on your vacation, etc. Explain that there are many other people who will be sharing a small space on the plane and that everyone needs to be respectful and use their best manners and quiet voices. The pilots and flight attendants are there to keep everybody safe, so you will have to listen carefully to them.

Let your child pack a bag full of special objects that they want to carry on the plane. (You’ll have to give some guidelines for this so they don’t try and bring their entire collection of stuffed animals.) A few books, a tablet and markers, a card game, a bedtime buddy or blanket, and some healthy snacks should do the trick. You might also suggest a change of clothes, tissues, and bandaids in case of emergencies.
Note! I did not suggest a computer or IPad. Parents, you can pack this in your bag and save it for emergencies. Too often children play with these while waiting for their flights to take off and then they are bored by the time they get on the plane.

After going through security, walk around and look out the windows at the other planes. Look at all the passengers and guess where they might be going. Talk about special things that your child hopes to do on the trip. If the flight is delayed you can play “I Spy,” “Tic Tac Toe,” “Hangman” or another quiet game. Oh, and don’t forget a last minute stop in the restroom!

Taking Off
When boarding a plane, you’ll find most pilots enthusiastic about meeting children and letting them take a “peek” inside the cockpit. Can your child find her own seat? Once seated, encourage your child to explore her space. (It’s fine to open and shut the window shade a few times, look in the seat pocket, talk about the airsick bag, etc.) Playing with the flight attendant call button is NOT ALLOWED! When the boarding door has closed, then everyone must buckle up!

Up in the Air
Once you are in the air, it’s time to open the backpack and read some books, play a game, draw some pictures, or eat a snack. If a beverage is served, show your child how to put down their tray and discuss their selection. Keep on talking and engaging your child.

O.K. Now, it’s time to get out the iPad or computer and watch a movie. Wait until the last possible moment to do this. This is like the 8th inning stretch on the plane. (I might also recommend a bag of M & M’s – for emergencies only!)

Before you know it you will hear those magic words, “Please fasten your seatbelts. We will be landing shortly.”

Remember, YOU are the parent and you are directing this event. With a happy, positive, attitude you’ll have a great flight and the other passengers will as well! How many opportunities do you have to give your child 100% of your attention? That may be the best part of your trip!

Wishing you safe and happy travels!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Have children bring in a plastic or cardboard can from icing, potato chips, or drink
mix. (Avoid tin cans because the edges can be sharp.) Write summer activities
so they can be cut in strips and placed in the can. Let children cover their cans
with paper and decorate with drawings, stickers, or collage materials. Put the
strips of summer fun in the can. Send the can home with a note encouraging the
parents to let their child select a strip each day and do the activity.
Hint! You can also use a plastic sand bucket or seasonal cup for this project.

You can also send home a summer calendar children will enjoy doing with their parents.

Here's a link where you can download the summer activities and calendar.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Make the last few days “sweet” ones to remember with lots of special days. You might want to celebrate “Wonderful Wednesdays” the last month of the school year or plan a little celebration every day the last week of school. What many adults forget is that children are happy with “plain vanilla.” Wearing a silly hat or a shirt from a favorite sports team can be as much fun as a fancy ball!

Sports Day – Enjoy the warm weather with a “Sports Day.” Children can wear t-shirts and hats from their favorite teams. Let them bring sports equipment to share with friends on the playground.

Book Party – Encourage children to dress up like their favorite book character. Play “Guess Who I Am?” or have children describe why they like a particular character. Let them bring favorite reading material (books, magazines) from home and sit or lay wherever they want for independent reading.

Talent Show
- One of my favorite memories is of a Talent Show we had at the end of the school year. I just invited all the children to think of a “talent” (song, dance, story, gymnastic stunt) they could do. We sat in a circle and they all got up and performed! We clapped and laughed and cheered!

Board Game Day – Let children bring board games from home. Set aside the last hour in the day to share games and play with friends.

Pajama Party – Have children wear pajamas and bring pillows and stuffed animals to class. Read books, watch a movie, and eat popcorn.

Career Day – Children come dressed for the career they’d like when they grow up. After sharing with friends, have each child draw a picture (or take a photograph) and make a class book.

Unbirthday Party – How about a birthday party when it’s everyone’s “unbirthday”? Play party games, sing, and decorate cupcakes. (This is also a great way to celebrate all those summer birthdays.)

Beach Party – Bring beach towels and wear sunglasses, shorts, and bathing suits. Set up sprinklers or other water activities on the playground. Play beach ball games, beach music, and have a “cool” snack like popsicles.

Teddy Bear Parade
– Children bring in a teddy bear or stuffed animal and parade around the classroom. Have them write stories and draw pictures of what they like to do with their bear. Have a “tea party” with your bears.

Hat Day – Ask children to wear their favorite hat to school, or challenge them to design a hat from a paper plate and art scraps.

Luau – Make grass skirts from draw string garbage bags. Cut straws in 1” pieces and alternate stringing with paper flowers on dental floss to create a lei. Hula, surf, and eat pineapple fruit kabobs for snack.

Toy Day – Children bring a favorite toy from home and share with their friends.

Wash Day – Wear old clothes and bring sponges, pails, and squirt bottles. Let children wash tables, desks, toys, etc. (You could tie this in with a water play day.)

Sock Hop – Children get to wear silly socks to school and have a dance at the end of the day.
*Teach the children the “Twist,” “Charleston,” “Jitterbug,” “Swim,” “Pony,” or other dances from your past.

Teacher of the Day – Assign one child each day the last month of school to be “Teacher of the Day.” That child gets to sit in your desk and be in charge of circle time. They can choose a book to read to the class, a song to sing, game to play, and so forth.

Monday, May 18, 2015


We ended our seminar last week with some awesome ideas. Take a look, and I bet you’ll find something quick and meaningful you can use this week! 

Finger Math Game (Karen Rosenkranz)
This “show me” game can be used for math facts 1-10. The teacher says a number like “5” and holds up one finger. The other children show 4 fingers. The teacher can easily see who knows the facts.

Porcupine Words (Mica Ike)
Students collect “porcupine words” that are prickly, sticky, and hard to pronounce. Make porcupine folders (folder with colored porcupine on it) so children can write the words.

Kids vs. Teacher (Jenna from Round Lake)
During reading group the students follow along as you read. When it’s their turn they get a point for the “kids” if they keep up. If they don’t keep up the “teacher” gets a point.

Ask Me Badges (Jenna)
Pass out badges that say “Ask me! I can help!” for students to wear during independent work. Students must go to “ask me” friends before coming to the teacher. This empowers low level students and it’s good for high level students to explain concepts. 

Blurt Light (Jenna)
Use a tap light for children to develop self-regulation. When the light is on no blurting out or telling stories is allowed. When the light is off the students can talk off topic or tell a story.

Popcorn Freeze Dance (Debbie Mendelson)
Here’s a great game for a literacy brain break. Write sight words on small, yellow pieces of paper and crumple them up to look like popcorn. Store these in a popcorn container from the dollar store. Play music and encourage creative dancing/movement. Stop the music and the children have to freeze. Children who are totally frozen get to pick up a piece of popcorn and read the word. After several children have had a turn put the music back on.

20 Questions (Megan Pacella)
The star student gets to bring in a mystery object. The rest of the class can ask 20 questions to try and guess what the mystery object is.

Savings Account (Megan Pacella)
Each child has a baby food jar that is their savings account. They can earn plastic coins and save them in their jars. They can use the money to buy prizes or they can use them at a bake sale.
*The money earned from the other students an be used to buy “needs” and “wants.”

Picture/Word Charts (Kathy Kilgore)
Use picture/word charts around the room for students to practice asking questions. Students take turns asking questions and the answer has to be on a picture/word chart in the room.

Park That Comment (Jess Pesola)
This idea will help you with students who have tons of stories or interjections. Create a parking lot from a poster for ideas, questions, and stories. Students write a word or phrase on a post it and put it in the parking lot to remind them. Come back to parking lot comments at the end of the lesson. 

Valentine’s Day
I love you a little.
I love you lots.
My love for you would fill ten pots, fifteen buckets, sixteen cans, three teacups, and four dishpans.

Busy Baskets (Alicia A. Rivera) 

This idea works for students who finish first or have behavioral issues. Fill several small baskets with magnetic letters, numbers, color blocks, etc. Students can put the letters in order, numbers in order, or reproduce a block pattern. This will keep them engaged until you are ready to do the next activity.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Yeah, I know you’re counting the days until school is over, but the new school year will be here before you know it. These are some projects you can do now and save for later.

The Best Thing About…
Invite children to recall some of their favorite memories from the school year. Give them a sheet of paper to illustrate it. Ask them to write (or dictate) a sentence about it. Put their pictures together in a cover that says, “The Best Thing About (Grade)” and bind. Save the book to read to your new class when school starts.

Welcome Brochure
Demonstrate how to fold a sheet of paper into thirds to make a brochure. Let each child create a brochure called “Welcome to Grade.” They could include things they’ll learn, special events, etc. Save these and give them (or send in the mail) to your upcoming students when school starts.
Hint! Have children do a “rough draft.” Edit and then make a revised copy.

Back to School Bulletin Board
Have your children create a bulletin board to welcome the new class. Cover with newspaper to protect over the summer, and you’ll be ahead of the game when school starts. How about one of these themes?

Lights, Camera, Action! (Photos of Special Events)
A Great Batch (Gingerbread Cookies)
(Teacher’s Name) Bunch (Bananas)
Round Up for a Great Year (Horses)
Lookin’ Good! (Giant Mirror)
Kick off for (Grade)! (Football & Goal)
Join (Teacher’s Name) Team! (Pennants and Pompoms)
Welcome Super Stars (Stars)
Swim into a New Year (Fish)
Bloom in (Grade) (Flower Garden)

Saturday, May 16, 2015


Library Card
What better gift can you give your students at the end of the year than a library card? Take a field trip to your local library or ask the children’s librarian to visit your school and describe all their summer reading activities.

Summer Reading List
It’s easy to do an internet search and find a suggested reading list for your grade level. Parents would probably appreciate this when helping their child choose books to read over the summer.

Cut cardstock the size of a postcard. Let children decorate one side with markers or crayons. On the reverse side draw a line down the middle. Have the children write the teacher’s name on one half. Explain that if they send you the postcard over the summer and write you a note that you will write back to them.
*You could also give the children a pre-stamped envelope addressed to you.
Explain that whenever they write you, you will write them back.

Book Raffle
What to do with all those books your class has created over the year? Number the books and have a raffle. Put similar numbers in a “hat” and let each child draw one. They’ll each go home with a book to help them remember their friends.

Ten Things
Have each child make a list of ten things they would like to do over the summer. (Younger children could dictate five things they would like to do.)
*Send these home in your “end of year” letter to parents.
*Fold these up like paper airplanes and send them flying on the playground.

Friday, May 15, 2015


Memory Book
Run off copies of a memory book for each child to color and fill in the missing information. Here are some suggestions:
1st page – “My Memory Book” with teacher’s name, school, year.
2nd page – “This is me.” (Child draws self –portrait.)
3rd page – “This is my teacher.” (Child draws teacher’s picture.)
4th page – “Here are my friends.” (Child draws friends.)
5th page – “My favorite thing at school is...” (Draws favorite activities.)
6th page – “Something I’ve learned this year…” (Draws accomplishment.)
7th page – “When I grow up I want to be…” (Draws future self.)
8th page – “This is my handprint.” (Trace around child’s hand.)
You could also have children draw their favorite sport, color, book, song, food, etc.
*If you do an end of year conference with parents this would be a good thing to share.

Autograph Book
Cut paper in fourths. (I like to use colored paper.) Have children count out 10 pieces. Hole punch and tie with a ribbon. Children walk around the room and get their friends’ autographs.
Hint! You could also let them collect their friends’ phone numbers (with parental approval).

Time Line
Give each child a long strip of paper. Draw a line down the middle. Have children draw what they looked like when they started the school year on the left and what they look like now on the right. They can fill in the middle of the time line with special memories. (You might need to brainstorm or show photos to spark their memories.)

Now I Can!
Brainstorm all the things your students have learned during the school year. Give each child a sheet of paper and have them draw something they couldn’t do at the beginning of the year that they can do now. Complete this sentence: “I couldn’t _______, but now I can _______.” Make a cover that says “Now I Can!” and bind to make a book.

Class Yearbook
A teacher in New York shared this idea with me years ago. It’s going to take a little work, but it will be something children will treasure the rest of their lives! You will need to assemble photographs of the children, as well as pictures you’ve taken throughout the school year. Take 26 sheets of paper and write a letter on each page. Glue pictures of the children on the page their name begins with. Next, sort through the pictures and glue them on appropriate pages. (I’ve give you some suggestions for each letter below.) Label the pictures and run off a copy for each child. Use cardstock for the front and back cover and bind.
            A- apple tasting, art, alphabet, “Alligator”
            B- “Bear Hunt,” blocks, birthdays, books, bus
            C- computers, caterpillars, counting, cooking, CLIFFORD
            D- dinosaurs, dancing, drawing, “Days of the Week”
            E- easel, exercise, eating, exploring
            F- friends, fall, first day of school, “Five Little Monkeys”
            G- GINGERBREAD MAN, games, graphs, gym
            H- Hundred Day, Halloween, holidays, handprint
            I- ice and snow, insects, “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “I can___”
            J- jack o’ lanterns, journals, jump rope
            K- KISSING HAND, kites, kindness, “Katalina”
            L- letters, library, “Lettercise,” lunch, LEO
            M-“Macarena Months,” music, math, magnets
            N- nests, nursery rhymes, names, numbers
            O- oceans, outside, “Over in the Meadow”
            P- pizza parlor, P.E., puzzles, painting, “Peanut Butter”
            Q- quiet time, quilts
            R- reading, rainy days, running, rabbits, “Rime Time”
            S- singing, spring, shapes, senses, science
            T- “Tooty Ta,” turkeys, teeth, tests, TACKY THE PENGUIN
            U- upside down, under, umbrellas (April showers)
            V- Valentine’s Day, VERY BUSY SPIDER
            W- word wall, writing, winter, “Wally Acha,” weather
            X- “X” marks the spot (treasure hunt), X with body
            Z- zoo field trip, zigzag art, “Z” end of the year
*Use the name of the school, teacher’s name, etc.

Here’s a poem for the cover:
We’ve learned and played in many ways,
But now the year must end.
Here’s a book to remember special days,
And all your kindergarten (first grade) friends!

Hint! If you don’t have photographs, have your children draw pictures for your book.

*Make a video of your students singing, working in centers, and doing other things they like best at school.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


These projects will give children a tangible way to remember their friends.

Memory Shirt
Have children bring in an old t-shirt from home. (White works best.) Provide them with fabric pens and let them have friends write their names and draw pictures on their shirts.
Hint! Plan several days for this project. It’s “no fun” if you have to do it all at once.

Sweet Dreams Pillowcase
Let children bring in a pillowcase and have their friends decorate them with their names and pictures. They will have “sweet dreams” all summer!

Friendship Necklace
You will need construction paper, yarn, markers, and hole punches for this project. Cut the construction paper into 2 ½” squares, circles or other simple shapes. Each child will need as many pieces as there are students in your room. Have them write their name and draw pictures on their shapes. Punch holes. Now comes the fun part! Children get to go around the room and give a shape to each of their friends. Encourage them to say something kind they remember about their friend as they pass them out. Finally, children string the shapes on yarn and knot the ends to make a necklace.

Time Capsule
Create a memento of the year with a time capsule. Ask each child to bring in Pringle’s can. Have them draw a picture of themselves and put it in the can. Let them write or dictate what they want to be when they grow up and illustrate it. Challenge them to collect a wrapper from their favorite food, something their favorite color, friends’ signatures, and other small, meaningful objects to add to their bottles. After gluing on the lid and decorating the outside, send the time capsules home with a note to the parents asking them to save them until their child graduates from high school.

Car Wash
Have students make two lines facing each other. They should stand 2-3 feet apart. Demonstrate how to move your palms in a circular direction like a car wash. Choose one child at a time to walk “through” the car wash. Students should gently pat the friend going through the car wash as they make positive comments about that friend.