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Monday, August 31, 2015


If you are a college football fan like we are, this is an exciting time of year. Football gives us a distraction from the world's woes and it gives us something to cheer for and look forward to each weekend. Football can also be a “kick off” for teaching some skills in your classroom. 

College Goals – It’s never too early to plant seeds of attending college in your students. Give them a dream and a goal! One school I visited displayed pennants of the schools where the teachers graduated from in the front hall.
*Have the children brainstorm all the colleges and universities in your area. Talk about why it is important to go to college.
*Encourage your students to think about where they would like to go to college. Give them paper shaped like pennants to decorate with their college dream. 

Math – Let children do surveys of favorite college teams.
Graph favorite teams.
Predict who will win the game. Who was right? Who was wrong?
Predict what the score will be. Who was closest?
*Let children choose a favorite player and write their number on a jersey. How many math facts can they think of to equal that number?

Social Studies – Use a map of the United States and locate where games will be played.

Internet Search – Look up team mascots and colors. Listen to college fight songs. Do exercises to fight songs.

Art – Cut pictures of players out of the newspaper or sports magazines. Challenge children to write creative stories about favorite players. They could also write letters to favorite players.

Guest Readers – Invite a local high school football team and cheerleading squad to visit your school to read books. There’s nothing more motivating to a young child than to see someone in a uniform model how “cool” it is to read!

Team Mascots - This game can be adapted to any school mascot, action hero, or seasonal character. Since I graduated from the University of Georgia, UGA was my first choice. This is a quick, simple game that can be played with any age level or any skill that needs to be reinforced. It’s the perfect game if you’ve got a few minutes before lunch or a few minutes at the end of the day. 

WHY? shapes, colors, letters, words, numerals, math facts, etc. 
WHAT? flash cards, picture of a favorite school mascot
HOW? Have children sit in a circle and encourage them to identify the information on the flash cards as you place them on the floor. Tell the children to turn around and hide their eyes. Take “UGA” and slip it under one of the flash cards. The children turn back around and raise their hand if they think they know where UGA is hiding. One at a time, have children call out a word, letter, shape, etc., and then look under that card. The game continues until a child finds UGA. That child may then be “it” and hide the mascot.

*Use a pocket chart to play this game. Arrange the flash cards in the pocket chart and then hide the mascot under one of the cards as the children hide their eyes. 

More? Make a concentration game using various college mascots.
Make a matching game where children match mascots to college names.
What characteristics do you need to dress up and be a school mascot?
Have children write which mascot they would like to be and why.

Sunday, August 30, 2015


Sometimes children like big books and sometimes they like little books. This book is so much easier to make when you tell the story about going on a picnic.

Make a picnic book by telling this story:

Let’s go on a picnic. First we need a picnic basket.
(Fold the paper in half.)

Next, we need hotdogs.
(Fold the paper in fourths.)

We also need hamburgers.
(Fold the paper into eighths.)

We’ll need a picnic bench to sit at.
(Open so it’s folded in half. Bring  one bottom flap to the fold. Turn
over and bring the other bottom flap to the fold.)

A picnic is more fun if we share it with a friend. (Tear down middle crease
until you reach the fold.)

Now all we need is a book to write a story about our adventures on our picnic.
(Hands on top of bench, bend down, and fold around to make a book.)

Use for: letter books, word families
            reading the room, writing the room
            fact families
            shape or color books
            unit or theme
            spelling words (picture/sentence)
            friends’ names and phone numbers
            opposites, story elements
            original stories

Hint! Let children decorate an individual cereal box to store their picnic books.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


This is a little challenging the first time you make it, but after a few times you’ll be ready to step into writing.

Layer two sheets of paper about 1” apart as shown. Fold backwards to create a step book with 4 layers.

Use for: four seasons
            sets and numerals
            4 sentences or facts about a topic of study
            two words and contraction under flap
            layers in a rain forest or ocean
            steps in cooking or doing an art project
            letters and words that begin with that sound

Hint! Use more sheets of paper to create books with 6, 8, or 10 pages. (These could be 
used for the 5 senses, days in the week, planets in the solar system, continents, etc.)

Friday, August 28, 2015


Giving children a “brochure” to write in is much inviting than a blank sheet of paper.

Directions: Fold a sheet of paper into thirds to create a brochure.
                Or try this easy version: roll paper into a circle and “smush” flat.

Use for: story elements (title, favorite character, beginning, middle, end)
            consonants or vowels (capital, lower case, pictures; long a, short a, aw sound)
            all about me

            field trip, vacation, place they’d like to visit
            unit or theme (K-W-L)
            sorting (pictures, letters, words, syllables)
            fact families
            biography (facts, accomplishments)
            letters with lines, curves, lines and curves
            inflicted endings
            drawing a body



Thursday, August 27, 2015


It really is JUST BECAUSE DAY, and a day to remember to shut your door and read a book, sing a song, or play a game “just because.” I think sometimes we beat a book to death by asking about the author, illustrator, beginning, middle, end, characters, setting, problem, resolution, illustrations, vocabulary…etcetera, etcetera. Sometimes you just need to read a book and LET IT BE! Give children a blank book to write whatever they want JUST BECAUSE!
Read, Write, Quiet Boxes are a nice way to blend skills with creativity and reading and writing for pleasure.

Materials: empty food boxes, construction paper, paint, art media
               blank books, pencils

Directions: Each child will need to bring in an empty food box from home. Cut the top off the box and make slanted sides. Children can paint their boxes or decorate them with construction paper. Store blank books, pencils, and simple books that they can read in the boxes. Children can use their boxes as a quiet activity after lunch or if they finish their work early.

Little Books

Lay four to six pieces of paper on top of each other. Staple the four corners. Cut into fourths, and you’ll have four little books.

Use for: days of the week (seven sheets of paper)
            Seasons (four sheets of paper)
            Senses (five sheets of paper)
            planets, continents, etc.

*Staple four times on the short side and then cut horizontally to make “skinny books.” Use for writing names, sentences, ABC’s, numbers, making patterns, and so forth.

Kalina is in her jammies on my lap helping me make books.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Flip Book
Make a hotdog fold. (Fold in half.)

Make a hamburger fold. (Fold in fourths.)

Make a juice box. (Fold in eighths.)

Open in half. Cut down each crease to the middle fold.

Fold in half to make four flips.

*Children like to call this a “garage door” book.

Use for: sequence of a butterfly
            story elements
            letters and pictures that begin with the sound
            before and after
            parts of a plant
            what’s inside an egg
            mother and baby animals
            sequence of your day
            sets and numerals
            riddles or questions and answers
            four seasons
            animals and their homes
            spelling word – picture or definition
            card (“Some gifts are large. Some gifts are small.
                   Some gifts are round. Some gifts are tall. 

                   But a gift from the heart is the best gift of all!)

Hint! Use longer paper and more strips to make a book about the five senses, days of the week, planets, etc.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015


If you give a little boy or girl a hammer, they’ll find a million things to hammer.
And, if you give a little boy or girl a book, they’ll think of a million things to write in it.

This week I’ll be traveling to Minnesota and Michigan, but I’ve got some powerful “tools” to share with you while I'm out of town.

Many years ago a professor remarked:

     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?

Some of you might not even know what a “ditto” is. Dittoes existed before copy machines, but they were purple and smelled like alcohol. However, the point remains the same. There are so many more meaningful things to do instead of worksheets - such as BLANK BOOKS!


1st – They are perfect for differentiated instruction. Blank books are open-ended to challenge children at different skill levels.

2nd – Blank books can be used to reinforce reading and writing standards across the curriculum.

3rd – Writing and drawing activate more areas of the brain than typing a key on a computer.

4th – Many children don’t have books in their home so this is a great way for children to share reading with their families.

5th – Blank books are much more engaging than worksheets and encourage creativity.

6th – Blank books nurture the belief in children that they really are “authors.” 

7th - If children write a book they will be more motivated to read the book.

8th – Children have a tangible project that demonstrates learning when they make a book.

9th – When children make books they are developing the executive function of “task initiation” and “task completion.”

10th - Blank books can be used in learning stations or as an activity with a partner or small group.

Note! Blank books don’t always have to have a purpose. Sometimes you can put them out in a writing center and let children write or draw whatever they want!

Helpful hints when making books!

A. Make these books with a small group of children, such as a guided reading group. It’s much easier to help 5 or 6 children learn the steps than the whole class at once.

B. Model making the book from start to finish. The brain remembers as a whole. The second time the children can make the book with you as you slowly go through the steps.

C. Make the same book each day for a week, assigning different tasks with the book. Once children have mastered making several of these blank books you can use them for assignments the rest of the year.

D. Suggest children use as many colors as they are in age in their books. For example, if you are five years old you should use at least five colors. If you’re seven, you should use seven colors.

*You could also ask older students to use as many words in their sentences as they are in age.

E. Blank books are a perfect activity for parent volunteers to do with the class.

F. Save blank books throughout the year as part of their writing portfolio.

Snip Snap Book
If you’ve been to my workshops you already know how to make this book. Talk about simple, easy, and useful!

Materials: 2 sheets of white paper

Directions:  Fold two sheets of paper in half. Make
                  tears (or snips) about a thumbnail apart down the
                  fold. Bend one tab forward, then the next
                  backward, and so on to bind the pages together.

Use for:      retelling a story/story elements
                  letter book/vowel book
                  number book/shape book
                  “The Book”/ “A Book”
                  coordinate with a unit or theme
                  environmental print/cut out words they can read
                  word families, opposites
                  write the room
                  writing original stories, journals
                  chit chat books (teacher and child write back & forth)
                  note taking
                  vocabulary/spelling words
                           Monday – write a word on each page
                           Tuesday – write the definition
                           Wednesday – illustrate or cut out a picture
                           Thursday – write a sentence

Hint! Fold paper lengthwise to make a tall book.
        Cut paper in half to make a little book.
        Use a colored sheet of paper on the outside and a white sheet on the inside.

Thanks to my director and film crew (K.J.) for helping me make these videos!

Monday, August 24, 2015


I know many of you begin the year by teaching the children to write numerals. If you practice singing this song as you make the movements in the air it will be much easier for the children to write them with a pencil. 

Note!  The term "numeral" refers to the symbol and the term "number" refers to the amount, although most people use them interchangeably.
The Numeral Song (Tune: “Skip to My Lou” - SING TO LEARN CD)
Come right down and that is all. (Use index finger and middle finger
Come right down and that is all. to do “invisible” writing in the air.)
Come right down and that is all
To make the numeral one. (Hold up 1 finger.)

2 – Curve around and slide to the right…

3 – Curve in and around again…

4 – Down, over, down some more…

5 – Down, around, put on a hat…

6 – Curve in and around again…

7 – Slide to the right and slant it down…

8 – Make an “s” then close the gate…

9 – Circle around then come right down…

10 – Come right down, then make a zero…

We can sing the “Numeral Song”…

And make numerals all day long!

*Let children suggest other body parts they can write with, such as their elbow, foot, nose, etc.

*Have children do invisible writing on each other’s backs.

*Make writing wands that children can use to make the numerals in the air by taping 18” pieces of caution tape or ribbon to craft sticks.

*Download highway numbers at and let children trace over these as you sing.
Hint! Put a green dot where they start and a red dot where they finish. 

*Make play dough plates by writing numerals on plates with a permanent marker. Children roll the play dough and place it on top of the plate. Can they make a set of objects to match the numeral?

*Squirt shaving cream (non-menthol) on a table or smooth surface and ask children to write numeral. They can also draw shapes in the shaving cream. Clean up with a sponge and you’ll have clean tables and hands!

*Have children trace numerals in a sand tray or sand box.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


I received this anonymous text last week and it seemed like it was sent to me so I could pass it on to you.  Blessings for a wonderful school year!

May GOD bless you. 

May HIS face shine upon you. 

May HE grow you up to become the teacher HE purposes you to become. 

May the calling and gifts HE has placed within your life be a blessing to all 
the children HE places in your path. AMEN 

Now Geese, go out there and do that thing that you do. 

Be Awesome and start flapping!!!!

I'm calling this "Feel Good Sunday" and so I'm sharing a video from Jane Bond's school in Rwanda.  Talk about happy children!  Notice the hands-on materials and playful activities.  Makes you want to go teach at Amahoro School, doesn't it?

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Did you know that August 22nd is National Tooth Fairy Day?  I know you didn't lose a tooth, but she left these "prizes" for you to help you focus children's attention.

Tootsie Roll
Tootsie roll, (Roll hands around each other.)
Lollipop. (Pretend to lick a lollipop.)
We’ve been talking, (Open and shut fingers.)
Now let’s stop! (Make sign language sign for “stop.”)

Hint!  I would choose one of these at a time and use it for several weeks.  When you do the same attention grabber repeatedly it becomes an "indicator" in the brain to help children know it's time to look, listen, and learn.

Hocus Pocus
Teacher says:
“Hocus Pocus!” (Stick out index finger and circle around like a magic wand.)
Children respond:
“Everybody focus!” (Children make circles with fingers and thumbs and place
                                           around eyes like spectacles.)

Teacher says: Is everybody happy?
Children repeat: Yes, ma’m. H –a- p – p – y. Happy! (Clap on letters.)

Give Me a Clap (Tune: “Addams Family”)
Give me a clap. (Clap twice.)
Give me a clap. (Clap twice.)
Give me a clap, give me a clap,
Give me a clap. (Clap twice.)

Give me a snap. (Snap twice.)
Give me a snap. (Snap twice.)
Now fold your hands and put them down
Into your lap. (Model putting your hands in your lap.)

Sit Down Chant
Clap your hands. (Clap 3 times slowly.)
Stomp your feet. (Stomp slowly 3 times.)
Put your bottom
in your seat!

How Does My Teacher Feel About Me?

Teacher says: “How does my teacher feel about me?”
Children respond: “I’m as special as special can be because my teacher believes in me!”

Magic Clap
Explain to the children that you have a magic signal that only your class will know about. Every time you clap your hands, you want them to repeat the clap and look at you. Practice this by clapping patterns, such as:
            clap, clap ~ clap
            clap, clap, clap ~ clap ~ clap
After children have repeated the clap and are focused on you, give directions for the next activity.

Make Rain
Hold up palm as you say, “Let’s make rain. Do what I do.”
Tap pointer finger on palm for several seconds.
Tap pointer finger and middle finger.
Tap pointer, middle, and ring finger.
Tap pointer, middle, ring, and pinky on palm.
Clap hands together loudly, then reverse movements.
Tap pointer, middle, ring, and pinky on palm.
Tap pointer, middle, and ring finger.
Tap pointer and middle finger.
Tap pointer finger on palm.
Slowly bring palms together and put in your lap. 

Criss-Cross Applesauce
Cut the label off a can of applesauce and glue it to a piece of paper.  Tape the paper to a stick and whenever you want the children to sit "criss-cross applesauce" hold up your sign.  That's a good example of visual literacy because before children read words they read pictures.

*Thanks to my friend Pamela Pounds for this fantastic idea.

Friday, August 21, 2015


Is there anything better than a finger play to engage children’s hands, mouths, and minds? Here are a few of my “oldies but goodies” for focusing children’s attention. The children today respond just as well as the children I taught 45 years ago. These finger plays are a “sneaky” way to get those little hands just where you want them.

P.S.  Kalina and K.J. are visiting this week.  Kalina is my student and K.J. is the cameraman! 

Open, Shut Them
Open, shut them. (Open and close fists.)
Open, shut them.
Give a little clap, clap, clap. (Clap 3 times.)
Open, shut them. (Open and close fists.)
Open, shut them.
Put them in your lap, lap, lap. (Put hands in your lap.)
Creep them, creep them. (Crawl fingers up your chest.)
Creep them, creep them
Right up to your chin. (Fingers under chin.)
Open up your little mouth (Open up mouth.)
But do not let them in! (Shake head NO!)
Falling, falling, (Hands up and then wiggle down.)
falling, falling,
Almost to the ground. (Stop before floor.)
Quickly pick them up again (Fingers up high in the air.)
And turn them round and round. (Twirl hands around.)
Faster, faster, (Twirl fast.)
Slower, slower… (Twirl slow.)
CLAP! (Clap hands and then put in your lap.)

The Finger Band 
The finger band is (Start with your hands behind your back
Coming to town, and wiggle them as you slowly bring
Coming to town, them in front.)
Coming to town.
The finger band is
Coming to town
So early in the morning.

This is the way (Pretend to play drums.)
They play their drums…

This is the way
They twirl their hands… (Twirl hands around your head.)

This is the way (Pretend to play a horn.)
They play their horns…

(Let children suggest other instruments and motions.)

The finger band (Slowly wiggle fingers behind you
Is going away, as you lower your voice to a whisper.)
Going away,
Going away.
The finger band
Is going away
So early in the morning.

Quiet Hands 
Hands up high. (Hands in the air.)
Hands down low. (Hands down.)
Hide those hands, now. (Hands behind your back.)
Where did they go? (Shrug shoulders.)
One hand up. (Right hand up.)
The other hand, too. (Left hand up.)
Clap them, (Clap.)
Fold them, (Fold in lap.)
Now we’re through!

*If children are wiggling their hands, ask them to please talk to their hands and tell them to be quiet.


Ten Little Friends 
Ten little friends (Hold up fingers.)
Went out to play (Wiggle.)
On a very bright
And sunny day.
And they took a little walk.
Walk, walk, walk. (Walk fingers in front of your body.)
And they had a little talk.
Talk, talk, talk. (Put fingertips together.)
They climbed a great big hill (Move fingers over your head.)
And stood on the top very still. (Keep hands still.)
Then they all tumbled down (Roll hands around and down.)
And fell to the ground.
We’re so tired, (Hold up fingers.)
They all said.
So they all went home
And went to bed.
10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – (Put down fingers one at a time as you
5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1. count backwards and lower your voice.)
Good night! (Lay head on hands.) 

Hint! I would take one of these and use it over and over for a week. Repetition is good for oral language and the rhyme will be an “indicator activity” that it’s time to listen. Glue it to an index card you can keep in your pocket or write it on a language experience chart. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Here’s another blog in response to a call from a teacher about struggling to get her students engaged and quiet. I think there’s an epidemic of impulsivity going around our country as a result of too much screen time. I’m not an expert, but here are my thoughts and some ideas that might help.

Do you feel like some of your children are not connecting with you when you talk to them, look them in the eyes, or try to engage them? When children spend time in front of a screen they are a passive participant. The people on the screen do all the talking and moving and they can sit there and watch. Children who spend too much time in front of a screen can often disconnect with reality, but you may be able to remedy the problem with some of these tips.

Set the Stage
Explain what your expectations are when you sit down for circle or group time. It’s a time to listen and learn. Your feet need to be….Your hands should be… Model, model, model!

Sitter Spot
If your class has a difficult time sitting in a spot you can make them a “sitter spot” from felt squares or fun foam. Cut circles (any size) and write the students’ names with a maker. Spread these out so they all have a defined place to sit. Explain that it’s their “special” spot.

Divide and Conquer
One of the simplest techniques for “impulsivity” is to separate children who tease each other. Putting a high-energy student between two quiet friends will definitely have a calming effect.

Smart Hands
When I was in kindergarten 100 years ago (not really – only 63) Mrs. Meyers taught us to fold our hands and put them in our laps. Do you know this still works? One teacher demonstrated folding her hands as she told her students, “These are smart hands that will help you listen and learn.”

Criss Cross
Criss cross.    (Children sit cross legged on the floor.)
Be your own boss!  (Children fold arms around their chest as they give themselves a hug.   Hugging their chests helps children center themselves and gain control.)

Lower Your Voice
Lower your voice and talk very slowly.  When the teacher calms down the children will follow.

Brain Toys
Get a box or basket and write “brain toys” on it. ("Brain toys" sounds so much more positive than "fidget toys.")Tie some old socks in a knot and place them in the box. If children have a difficult time keeping their hands to themselves “invite” them to get a brain toy. Wouldn’t you rather a child knot and unknot a sock than poke or pick?

Get some bubbles and play a game called “beat the bubbles.” Blow bubbles and challenge children to be sitting quietly before all the bubbles pop.
*You can also play a music box or xylophone as a signal to be quiet and listen.

Be Observant
Children tell us things by their behavior. Look out for signs of frustration or things that trigger out of bounds behavior.

Be Patient
Teaching routines and helping children focus takes time. Set your expectations high and practice, practice, practice.

In my first education class I learned the importance of being FIRM, FAIR, AND CONSISTENT. That’s still pretty good advice after all those years.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Since I’ve been at this rodeo for over 45 years I have seen many ways to manage centers. There is no “right” or “wrong” way, but you do have to adapt to your district’s requirements, the age of your students, and your standards. 

Weekly Contract
Each week my students received a “contract” with ten centers they “got” to visit during the week. We did center rotation for 45 minutes at the end of the day when they were too exhausted to sit and listen. They got to choose where they went and how long they stayed in each center, but the goal was to do all ten activities by the end of the week. If they finished they got “Fabulous Friday”! What was Fabulous Friday?? They got to take their shoes off and do whatever they wanted. They LOVED it!!! 

After visiting a center they colored it in and then raised their hand. My assistant walked around with a hole punch and would punch the activity after they explained what they did or learned. (During this time I could pull one or two students to give them extra help.) 

Yes, I did limit the centers to 2 or 4 at a time. On Monday we’d go around the circle and they chose where they’d like to start. If a center already had four people they had to make another choice. When someone left a popular center then they could go there. This really worked itself out. If they wanted to stay in blocks all day Monday they could, but then they’d have to work a little faster the rest of the week to complete their center cards. It was amazing how they became self-directed learners by the end of the year!

Numbered Centers
I visited another kindergarten that had something similar. Children had index cards with numbers 1-10 on them. These were tied to a string that they wore around their necks. Scattered around the room were the numbers 1-10 with something to do at each station. As children completed the activity they raised their hand and the teacher punched their card.

Check List
Another idea might be to have a class list with the children’s names at each center. Write the focus goal at the top. As children complete assignments they make a smiley face or other comment next to their name.

Choice Board
Make a choice board with the different learning centers you have in your classroom. Put dots to control the number of children who can play in each center at a given time. Write each child’s name on a clothespin or put Velcro on the back of their photo. Children take their clothespin or photo and clip it by the center where they would like to play. If all the spaces are used, then they must make another choice. They may stay there as long as they want. When they leave they take their clothespin and attach it to another center that is open. 

*Use alphabetical order to determine who chooses first each day. For example, on Monday the first five children in the alphabet get first choice. On Tuesday, the next five in alphabetical order, etc.

Make a digital camera available so children can take photographs of the work and projects they do in centers.

Center Signs
Take a look at my June 16, 2015, blog to look at an idea for center signs.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


This blog is in response to a phone call I received from a teacher last week. I hope this information will be useful to you in helping administrators understand the value of center time, as well as helping you balance what is best for children with your district’s expectations. Wish I were in charge of the world!!!! 

I’m smiling because I was around when “learning centers” first appeared in the 1970’s. I’ve watched them evolve through the years and just like there are many ways to make chocolate chip cookies – there are many variations of centers. The goal is to make them taste “yummy” and fun. Learning centers can be called learning stations, interest centers, activity centers, etc., but whatever the label the goal is to provide children with the opportunity to learn independently or with a small group. 

Let’s take a look at a few of the current “buzz” words and see how they support learning centers.

Intentional Teaching – You can create centers for a specific purpose to reinforce standards and skills.
*Now, don’t get all ruffled because centers might have an academic focus. There are peripheral advantages to working at a center vs. doing a worksheet. In centers children can communicate with friends and they are usually more hands-on.

Purposeful Practice for Automaticity – Standards require children to repeat and practice skills. Learning centers can provide multiple opportunities for repetition using different materials.

Active Learning – The more senses you activate the more likely the message will get to the brain and stay in the brain. Most center activities are hands-on and engage multiple senses.

Challenging and Playful – Research emphasizes the importance of academic skills, but also the need to remember that young children need to be ENGAGED in meaningful and fun ways. Games, play dough, art, and concrete materials in centers can provide this balance. 

Note! If you’ll go to my website ( and click on July and August, 2014, you will find dozens of practical ideas that make “simply” fun centers!

Executive Function – EF seems to be a bigger predictor of life success and academic success than IQ. A key behavior that we want to develop is task initiation and task completion. What better way to do this than with a center activity where children start and finish a task? Centers also nurture responsibility and independence.

2lst Century Skills – The focus of most curriculums is on academic skills, but the Skills for the 21st Century remind us to integrate social and emotional goals. Creativity, cooperation, communication, and collaboration are the 4 “C’s” of 21st Century Skills that are nurtured when children work in centers.

My Administrator Wants ACADEMIC Centers with RIGOR…
Check out the “I CAN” Center Cards that Carolyn Kisloski helped me create. This will be a visible way to show what children are focusing on at different centers in your classoom.
Have To and Want To
Some of you struggle with the issue of making centers so academic that children can’t choose what they’d like to do or be creative. One way around that is to offer a “have to” at the center as well as a “want to.” When children have completed the required task you can have more open-ended materials for them to explore.

Hint! One teacher called the primary activity the “main course” and the optional activities “dessert.”

Come back tomorrow and I’ll share some ideas for center management.

Monday, August 17, 2015


In Amada Ripley’s book THE SMARTEST KIDS IN THE WORLD, one of the most interesting findings was that 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. Parents who modeled reading also had a positive impact.

Here are a few tips to encourage parents to communicate with their children about school.

Make daily journals for students by putting white paper in a pocket folder. At the end of each day students draw what they learned and dictate or write a sentence to go with their drawing. The journal goes home each evening so children can discuss what they did at school with their parents. The parents sign the journal, write comments or compliments, and return it the following day.

Conversation Starters

Make copies of the attached conversations starters. (Adapt them to your age level and curriculum.) Cut them apart and put them in a bag. Children draw one as they leave at the end of the day and give it to their parents to prompt a discussion about what they did.

Hint!  One school suggested that parents "turn it off" in the car when they picked up their child.  The quiet time might encourage children to talk about school because they'd know they had their parent's undivided attention.

Screen Time Survey
Ask parents to keep a log of how much time their child spends in front of a screen for a week. The following week ask them to “turn it off” and spend an equal amount of time reading, playing games, doing chores around the house, etc. with their child.

Brain Tickets
Run off brain tickets similar to the one below. To earn a brain ticket children need to tell the teacher one new thing they learned at the end of each day. Explain to the parents that their job is to ask their child what she learned to earn the ticket. (I did a blog on this July 22, 2015, with a download for the tickets.)

Reading Calendar
Send home a reading calendar at the beginning of each month. Parents and children can color in an object for each 5-10 minutes of reading. Make sure calendars are returned at the end of each month. (You can download these on my website.)

Cheers and Goals
Before conferences ask parents to write down three “cheers” (positives) about their child and three "goals" that they have for their child. Explain what you will try to do to help their child accomplish the goals and then ask them what they can do to help their child accomplish the goals.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


When I presented at a workshop recently several teachers asked if I would put the pattern for the “Old Lady who Swallowed a One” on my blog. If the children each had their own they could use it for numeral recognition as they sang the song. They could also use it for “one more,” “one less,” story problems, and other math activities.

I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a One
(Tune: “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” – Totally Math CD)
I know an old lady who swallowed a one. (Hold up 1 finger.)
She said it was fun to swallow a one.
She’s just begun.

I know an old lady who swallowed a two— (Hold up 2 fingers.)
What a thing to do, to swallow a two!
She swallowed the two right after the one;
What number fun!

I know an old lady who swallowed a three; (Hold up 3 fingers.)
By gosh, golly, gee, she swallowed a three!
She swallowed the three right after the two—
She swallowed the two right after the one.
What number fun!

I know an old lady who swallowed a four; (Hold up 4 fingers.)
Her throat got sore from sharp-cornered four.
She swallowed the four right after the three…

I know an old lady who swallowed a five; (Hold up 5 fingers.)
That jumped and jived and did a dive.
She swallowed the five right after the four…

I know an old lady who swallowed a six. (Hold up 6 fingers.)
I think she’s sick; she swallowed a six.
She swallowed the six right after the five…

I know an old lady who swallowed a seven. (Hold up 7 fingers.)
It wasn’t an eight, nine, ten, or eleven.
She swallowed the seven right after the six…

I know an old lady who swallowed an eight. (Hold up 8 fingers.)
She cleaned her plate and ate all of eight.
She swallowed the eight right after the seven…

I know an old lady who swallowed a nine. (Hold up 9 fingers.)
I don’t think she’s fine—she swallowed a nine.
She swallowed the nine right after the eight…

I know an old lady who swallowed a ten. (Hold up 10 fingers.)
She giggled and grinned and swallowed a ten.
And that’s the end.

The Old Lady’s Friend
Here’s another old lady made out of a swing trashcan.  Wouldn't your students love to count and feed her numbers?

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Left to right orientation is a key to beginning reading and writing. Sing this song to the tune of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” as you model reading large print in front of the class. 
     Top to bottom
     Left to right – left to right.
     Top to bottom
     Left to right - left to right.
     My hand knows that writing always goes
     Top to bottom
     Left to right – left to right.

Right & Left - Teach children this song to the tune of “Up on the Housetop.”
       Here is my right hand way up high.
       Here is my left hand touch the sky.
       Right and left and roll out of sight.
       Now I know my left and right.
       Wiggle them and get ready to write.
       Hold your pencil – not too tight.
       Name on your paper, start at the top.
       Ready to write now and don’t stop.

Hint! Focus on the right hand because then the other hand is “left” over.

Sticker - Put a sticker on each child’s right hand and then play “Simon Says” or the “Hokey Pokey.”

Lotion - Rub lotion or scented lip balm on each child’s right hand. 

Poem - Hold up your hands and stick out thumbs and index fingers as you say:
      Which is my left? Which is my right?
       Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
       But when I stick my thumbs out straight,
       My left will make an “L.”