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Saturday, October 31, 2015


Aren't you glad Halloween is on a Saturday this year?  If you get bored this weekend here's a project for you.  This is my variation of Timmy Turkey that I first heard over 40 years ago.  In the original story grandmother turns Timmy into a color that everyone will like and you pull out a picture of a roasted turkey on a platter.  I thought that might be a little too graphic for the kiddles, so I adapted it to be "kinder and gentler."  The alliteration and oral language, as well as the sequencing skills, are perfect for engaging children.  I guarantee they'll want to hear the story again and again.

Directions: Download the pattern and cut the turkey's body out of the front of a file folder. Insert colors of construction paper inside the file folder according to the story. (brown, blue, red, green, yellow, purple, and multi-color) Glue the words to the back of the folder so you can just read it and remove one sheet of paper at a time.

*Encourage the children to join in on the chorus!
Once upon a time there was a beautiful brown turkey named Timmy. One day as he strutted down the road he heard a bluebird say:

Ha, ha, ha! He, he, he!
You’re the funniest turkey I ever did see.
Timmy Turkey replied: Oh, dear, oh, dear! Oh, me, oh, me!
Why am I the funniest turkey you ever did see?
The bluebird answered: You should be blue like me. It’s such a peaceful color.
So Timmy went home a dyed himself blue. (Remove the brown paper to reveal a blue turkey.)
The next day as Timmy strutted down the road he heard a red hen say:
Ha, ha, ha! He, he, he!
You’re the funniest turkey I ever did see.
Timmy replied: Oh, dear, oh, dear! Oh, me, oh, me!
Why am I the funniest turkey you ever did see?
The redbird answered: You should be red like me. It’s such a bright color.
So Timmy went home and dyed himself red. (Remove the blue paper to reveal a red turkey.)
The following day as Timmy was strutting down the road he heard a green frog croak:
Ha, ha, ha! He, he, he!
You’re the funniest turkey I ever did see?
Timmy sadly replied: Oh, dear, oh, dear! Oh, me, oh, me!
Why am I the funniest turkey you ever did see?
The frog croaked: You should be green like me. Green is the color of life!
So what do you think Timmy did? That’s right! He went home and dyed himself green.
(Remove the red paper to reveal a green turkey.)
Timmy was strutting down the road a beautiful shade of green the next day when he heard a yellow cat say: Ha, ha, ha! He, he, he!
You’re the funniest turkey I ever did see!
Timmy answered: Oh, dear, oh, dear! Oh, me, oh, me!
Why am I the funniest turkey you ever did see?
The cat laughed and said: Who ever heard of a green turkey?
You should be yellow like me. It’s such a happy color.
Yes, you’re right! Timmy went home that night and dyed himself yellow. (Remove the green paper to reveal a yellow turkey.)
The next day Timmy was strutting down the road again when he heard a purple parrot squawk:
Ha, ha, ha! He, he, he!
You’re the funniest turkey I ever did see!
Timmy said: Oh, dear, oh, dear! Oh, me, oh, me!
Why am I the funniest turkey you ever did see?
The parrot squawked: Yellow’s no color for a turkey.
You should be purple like me. Purple is the color of royalty.
Timmy went home immediately and dyed himself purple. (Remove the yellow sheet of paper to reveal the purple turkey.)
Once again Timmy was walking down the road when he heard his turkey friends laughing. They said: Ha, ha, ha! He, he, he!
You’re the funniest turkey we ever did see!
Timmy cried and said: Oh, dear, oh, dear! Oh, me, oh, me!
Why am I the funniest turkey you ever did see?
The other turkeys replied: Who ever heard of a purple turkey?
You look so silly!
Timmy slowly walked home and as he walked he thought to himself, “I have dyed myself blue, red, green, yellow, and purple, and I have pleased no one.” Then he got a brilliant idea! He got all the bottles of dye and made all his feathers different colors. (Remove the purple sheet of paper to reveal the turkey with the colorful feathers.
The next day as Timmy Turkey strutted down the road everyone laughed and cheered!
Ha, ha, ha! He, he, he!
You’re the most beautiful turkey we ever did see!
And that’s why you always see turkeys with beautiful tail colors!

Timmy Turkey Download

Friday, October 30, 2015


The Great Pumpkin has a treat for you today! My webmaster just posted a new video for the "Addition Pokey."

Addition Pokey (“Totally Math” CD)
Put 1 finger in. (Hold up finger on right hand.)
Put 1 finger more. (Hold up 1 finger on left hand.)
Shake them altogether (Roll around.)
And then lay them on the floor. (Place on floor or table.)
Add them both together, (Bring hands together.)
And you don’t want to stall.
Now you have 2 in all.

2 fingers…3 fingers…4 fingers…5 fingers

*Do “Addition Pokey” with other facts.

These are two of my other favorite materials for addition.

Math Mat
You will need heavy paper cut in a 10" square. (I used a file folder.) Draw a line horizontally down the middle and then divide the top section in  half as shown. Children make sets in the upper sections and then bring them together in the bottom. I tell the children the horizontal line in the middle is like the "=" sign. What's on top has to equal what's on the bottom.

*You could use this for subtraction, the missing addend, and other operations.

Hands Up Math
Trace around the children's fingers and cut out. Glue the palms to a sheet of paper. Do not glue the fingers because you want to be able to move them up and down to demonstrate addition and subtraction.
Hint! You might want to make this with one hand for the younger children.

Thursday, October 29, 2015


For homework this weekend ask your students to save all their candy wrappers and bring them to school Monday. Here are some learning activities that will taste “yummy” to your class!

Counting - Count the wrappers. Tally how many in the whole class. 

Sets - Make sets with the wrappers.

Sorting - Sort the wrappers. What’s the sorting rule? Can they regroup them?

Graphing - Use the wrappers to graph their favorite candy bar.

Nutrition - Look at the food value on each wrapper. How many calories? How much sugar? Rank the candies by calories.

Vocabulary - Find descriptive words on the wrappers. Make a list of the words and use them in sentences.

Writing - Fold 2 sheets of paper in half and staple to make a book. Children write “I like…” at the top of each page and glue a candy wrapper underneath. This is a book every child in your room can read! Older children could write descriptive sentences about each candy. 

Alphabet Letters
 - Use the wrappers to make a class book called “The Sweet ABC’s.” Write alphabet letters on 26 sheets of paper. Children glue their wrappers to the appropriate letter.  Bind pages together to make a book.
Hint! If you don’t have a wrapper for each letter, let children suggest “sweet” words for the page. 

Money - Glue candy wrappers to a file folder. Write a coin value by each wrapper. Children count out the appropriate amount and place it on the wrapper.
Hint! For young children, price the candies from 1 cent to 10 cents and give them pennies. Make the amounts higher for older students.

Art - Let children use wrappers to make a collage.

Finally, take advantage of this “teachable moment” by discussing why sugar is not good for their bodies. What happens if you eat too much sugar? Make a list of healthy snacks that would be better food choices.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


This is one of those "high energy" weeks where you just need to smile and "let it go"!  You might want to turn off the lights and use a whisper voice to lower the activity level in your classroom.  Here are a few other tips:
*Practice slowly breathing in the smell of a pumpkin pie and then blowing out a candle in a pumpkin.  Count to four as you breath in and count slowly to four as you breath out.
*Be skeletons (stand stiffly) and then scarecrows (flop down from the waist).  Continue to call out "skeletons" and "scarecrows."
*Squeeze and relax.  Have the children squeeze their hands tight, and then relax.  Squeeze arms, tighter, tighter, and then relax.  Continue calling out other body parts for children to squeeze and relax.  End by having them squeeze their whole bodies.
*Lip sync finger plays and songs.
*How about an extra recess and some brain breaks? 
*Invite another class to join you for a sing along.
*Put one of these signs on your door!

Every place I go I am reminded about "using instructional time" and "rigor."  But sometimes you just need to shut your door and play a little.  (This is one of those weeks!)  This is an interesting article about the importance of play and active learning.  I really liked the notion of 15 minute “play breaks” every hour. Read on….

Finnish Kids Don't Learn To Read In Kindergarten. They Turn Out Great Anyway.
Schools in the Nordic country prioritize play in early education.

By Joseph Erbentraut

In America, kindergarteners are expected to have a firm grasp on literacy. This is not the case in Finland, where students focus on playtime early in their education and go on to excel in reading anyway. [SEE ]

As Helsinki-based teacher and writer Tim Walker explores in a new story published this week by The Atlantic, Finnish schools -- where students begin "preschool" at age 6 -- prioritize play-based learning opportunities such as arts and crafts over desk work like handwriting and reading early in a student's education. In two examples Walker offers, educators set up a make-believe ice cream shop and encourage students to make play forts. [SEE AND ]

"Play is a very efficient way of learning for children," Arja-Sisko Holappa of the Finnish National Board of Education explained to Walker. "And we can use it in a way that children will learn with joy."

The early focus on playtime doesn't seem to hold students back when it comes to literacy later in their education. According to a Stanford University analysis, Finland is one of the world's most literate societies, with 94 percent of those who begin upper secondary school -- a three- to four-year program students enroll in at the age of 16 or 17 -- graduating. Based on Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test results and graduation rates, the nation's school system is ranked among the world's five best. [SEE's-success-educating-teachers.pdf AND ]

That is not to say that reading is banned from Finland’s preschools. Teachers can teach reading if they determine it's appropriate after meeting with each student’s parents to create a custom learning plan.

While Walker points out that Finland does have some advantages -- such as one of the world's lowest child poverty rates -- that could make it difficult for its early-education success to be replicated elsewhere, he also references research studies that argue there is no long-term benefit to kindergarteners being taught to read so early.

In his work for The Atlantic and his blog, Taught By Finland, Walker has been examining the differences between Finnish schools and schools back in the U.S., where he has previously taught, over the past two years. In January, Walker reported on a promising Finnish physical-activity initiative. In another story last year, he dug into the Finnish practice of giving students and teachers alike 15-minute hourly breaks to socialize and play.

Couldn't we all use "play breaks" every hour???  Shut your door and keep on singing and dancing!!!

Playing at Mitchell School last week.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

SCARED of Vocabulary?

When teaching vocabulary to children, experts suggest using interesting words and building bridges between children’s experiences and words. What a perfect time of year to enrich children’s vocabulary with “spooktacular” and “bootiful” words.

Note! These activities can be used for Halloween words, Thanksgiving words, autumn words, or any unit of study.

Brainstorm “spooky” words, Halloween words, or other seasonal words. How many words can they come up with? Write them on the board as children call them out.
*Older children could brainstorm as a small group activity.

Dramatize Words
Call out nouns or adjectives like “skeleton,” “mummy,” “spooky,” “haunted,” for the children to dramatize. Encourage them to use their faces, hands, and whole bodies.

Write seasonal words on index cards and put them in a sack. Children choose a word and pantomime while their friends try to guess.

Seasonal Alphabet
Write the letters of the alphabet on a sheet of paper. Can they think of a seasonal word for each letter? Example: A - apples, B – bats, C – candy, D – Dracula…

Picture Words
Challenge children to turn words into pictures they represent.

Grow a Sentence
Write a simple sentence on the board. Can children add words to the sentence to make it grow?
     I see a pumpkin.
     I see a big pumpkin.
     I see a great big enormous pumpkin.
     I see a great big orange enormous pumpkin.
     I see a great big orange enormous pumpkin on the porch.
     I see a great big orange enormous pumpkin on the front porch.
     I see a great big orange enormous pumpkin on the front porch smiling….

Build a Pumpkin
This is similar to hangman, but you will be drawing a pumpkin, which is much happier than a noose! Put blanks on the board for the number of letters in a word. As children call out letters write them on the appropriate place on the line. If the letters are not in the word make a “bone pile.” For each letter you put in the bone pile draw part of a jack-o-lantern. Start with the pumpkin shape. Add a stem. Add a mouth, nose, eyes, etc.

Monday, October 26, 2015


Election Day is next Tuesday, November 3rd.  Here are some ideas to introduce children to a privilege that we have in our country. Explain that we are lucky to live in a democracy where every person gets to vote – and every vote matters! Tell the children they must be 18 to register as a voter, but you are going to have a “mock” (pretend) election in your classroom.

1st – Children must register to vote before the election. Let them sign their name on a sheet of paper and fill out a voter registration card. 

2nd – Let children help you decorate a voting booth and a ballot box. Remind them about the importance of a “secret ballot” so nobody knows how you voted and nobody can tell you what to do.
*A cardboard box set up on a table with one side cut off makes a perfect voting booth. A shoebox or cardboard box with a slit cut in the top will do for the ballot box.
3rd – Prepare a ballot with classroom activities children can vote on. You could have two books, two games, two songs, two art projects, etc. (Picture clues will help younger children with their selection.) Demonstrate how to mark their choice with an "X."

4th – On Tuesday choose three children at a time to “work” the polls. One child crosses off names on the voter registration sheet. One child stands at the voting booth and hands out ballots. A third child presides over the ballot box. 

After children have voted, let them make an “I Voted” badge from red, white, and blue paper.
5th – Count the votes and then read the book, sing the song, or play the game that won the most votes.   

Voting Sticks             
Here's another super simple idea that you can use throughout the year to empower children with making choices. First, each child will need to decorate a jumbo craft stick with their name. Second, you will need two cups or cans to hold the sticks when the children vote. Write options on index cards and tape them to the cups. (For example, if they were voting on a book you could write the names of the books and tape them ample, if they were voting on a book you could write the names of the books and tape them on the cups. If they were voting on a game they'd like to play you could write the names of the games on the cards.) One at a time children make their selection and place their stick in the cup. Which one do you think got the most votes? How can we tell for sure? Use a tally to record votes. Write the numerals under the tally marks. Introduce the inequality sign to show which is greater or less. I think I see some math standards here!!!
One thing I remember from my history of education class was that the purpose of schools in the United States was to “educate to perpetuate a democratic citizenry.” You can plant the seeds in your classroom every day by providing children with the opportunity to vote!

Sunday, October 25, 2015


Years ago there was an elderly man at church who carried a little bucket of candy and gave a piece to each child after Sunday school. The kids were thrilled, but some parents complained about it. Really? In the long run of life how much damage did one lollipop do? Think about the joy it brought that old man to have little children running up to him and give him a smile.  My own grown children still remember "the candy man."
Balance is a key to life and "all things in moderation." As adults we often have “childhood amnesia.” By that I mean we forget what it’s like to be a child and think like a child. Children love candy. They just do!  And, that's one of the reasons they love Halloween.  Aren't we lucky that this year they can get a sugar high on Saturday and hopefully will come back to earth by Monday morning!

I have a candy story for you today that I would NEVER use with children. In fact, I had forgotten all about this story until someone emailed and asked for a copy of it. You can save it for when you need a laugh or a smile at a faculty meeting. And, you might be surprised how aggressive grown-ups become over candy bars!!


(You will need to buy Twizzlers, Snickers, Twix, a Tootsie Roll, Crunch, 100 Grand, Starburst, Sugar Babies, Baby Ruth, 5th Avenue, Watchamacallit, Mounds, Hugs, Kisses, Skittles, 3 Musketeers, Good and Plenty, Lifesavers, and Pay Day. If you can’t find everything just eliminate it from the story. The first teacher to raise her hand when a candy bar is mentioned gets the treat.)

Your alarm goes off long before you are ready to get up. It really doesn’t matter what time it is – you still are not ready to get up. But you go through the motions of getting ready and before you realize it you are already at school. You walk in the door and are twisted and pulled in ten different directions – just like Twizzlers. The sink in the room is stopped up, a mother wants to have a long discussion with you, and here come the twins, also known as the Sugar Babies, who are on a sugar high. It’s barely 8:30 and you can tell it’s going to be one of those days.

As you settle into the morning routine, out of the corner of your eye you notice the school guinea pigs, Skittles and Snickers, are trying to break out of their cage. Luckily, Ms. Baby Ruth, your wonderful team teacher, catches them and secures the cage. The Three Musketeers, Todd, Robert, and Jeremy, are having a contest over who can run the fastest and Anna and Maria are arguing over who’s coming to their birthday party. You smile and pat yourself on the back for “rolling with it” just like a Tootsie Roll.

Twix answering an email and welcoming a new child, the teacher next door wants you to come see the store she set up in the math center. “Oh, Miss King,” you exclaim, “It looks just like 5th Avenue.” The books you ordered three months ago have just arrived and the children thank you for Good and Plenty things to read. One child is looking for a particular book, but he can’ seem to remember the title. “You know, you know, the one with the Watchamacallit on it.” He’s getting really frustrated when one of the other children finds it. “You’re such a Lifesaver,” you say.

The day proceeds without a major incident. Well, if you don’t call Kevin dumping a jar of glitter all over the floor. Every time you walk you feel a Crunch. After lunch you get a Starburst of energy and begin on the Mounds of paperwork that must be done.

When the children finally leave there is a knock on your door and in walks your principal. Today is Pay Day! You open your envelope and realize you will never be paid for what you are worth – even if they paid you 100 Grand. So here are some Hugs and Kisses (pass these out to everyone) to thank you for what you do!

Saturday, October 24, 2015


October 24th National Bologna Day
My bologna has a first name,
It’s O – S – C – A – R.
My bologna has a second name,
It’s M - A – Y – E – R.
Oh, I love to eat it every day,
And if you’ll ask me why I’ll say,
Cause Oscar Mayer has a way
With B – A – L – O – G – N – A.

*Here’s the original 1973 video some of you might remember:

O.K. So what has this got to do with rigor and standards? Other than letters and putting them together to make a word, not much. So, why am I writing about this? K.J.’s third grade teacher (Mr. D) told them each day about a national holiday and tied in a vocabulary word. For example, on National Milk Shake Day they learned the word “savor” because you want to savor it and make it last. Well, October 24th is National Bologna Day and Mr. D. taught them this song from the 70’s. K.J. sang it to his mother and she got a kick out of remembering the song as they sang it together. Those are the kind of experiences and bridges that are not in your curriculum that children will remember.

Sometimes you just have to shut your door and do something silly like National Bologna Day. And, although I don’t have a bologna song, I do have a sandwich book that’s perfect for descriptive writing.
You'll need two cheap paper plates to make this book. Fold both plates in half. Cut in 1 ½” from the rim on both sides as shown. Cut off the folded edge between the rim on the second plate. Roll up the first plate and insert it in the hole in the second plate. Unroll and you’ll have a book.
*Let children write about their favorite sandwich.
*Have children write a “how to” make a sandwich.
*Invite children to be chefs and create a new sandwich.

Friday, October 23, 2015


The ability to rhyme is a key to phonological awareness and learning to read.  Children don't learn to rhyme in a day, but here are some ACTIVE ideas to engage them whenever you have a few extra minutes

Handy Rhymes
Have children extend their arms as they sing a pairs of words that rhyme.  Sing to the tune of “Skip to My Lou.”
            Top (hold out right hand)
            Mop  (hold out left hand
            Those words rhyme.
            Sun (hold out right hand)
            Fun (hold out left hand)
            Those words rhyme.
            Kitten (hold out right hand)
            Mitten (hold out left hand)
            Those words rhyme.
            Now, let’s rhyme some more…(Roll arms around.)
Rhyme Ball
You will need a ball, beanbag, or other object to toss for this game.  Children sit or stand in a circle.  The teacher says a word and then tosses the ball to a child.  As the child catches the ball, she must say a word that rhymes.

Rhyme Detectives
Tell the children that they will get to be detectives and listen for words that rhyme.  You say a word, and they put their pinkies up if they hear a word that rhymes with it.  Pinkies down if the words don’t rhyme.
            Cat - hat (pinkies up)
            run - dog (pinkies down)             

Name Rhymes
Children love silly nonsense words, so make up rhymes with their names.                          Jason – bason – mason – pason
            Mia – bia – ria – chia

Rhyme Bag Homework
Give each child a paper bag and ask them to bring in two objects that rhyme.  (You could even make the bag into a backpack.)
Repeat this chant below as children share their items:
            We’re going on a rhyming hunt and we know what to do.
            We need to listen carefully and rhyme some words with you.
Say the words several times.  Can children think of other words that rhyme?
*As a follow up activity ask children to draw pictures of things their friends shared that rhyme.

And that’s the end - my friends!

Thursday, October 22, 2015


I had some wonderful teachers and children sing with me last week when I visited DC.
Isn't that the cutest shirt?  And how about that adorable bulletin board!

ABC Tunes
Did you know that the traditional tune we use to sing the A B C’s is also the tune for “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and “Twinkle Little Star”?

Here are several other tunes that you can use to sing the ABC’s. Give it a try!
“Amazing Grace”
“Braham’s Lullabye”
Theme from Gilligan’s Island
“100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”
“Mary Had a Little Lamb”
“The House of the Rising Sun”
“Coming Round the Mountain”

Hint! You might want to practice before doing it in front of your class.

ABC Actions
Clap on the consonants and hop on the vowels as you sing.
March, tiptoe, disco (finger up in the air and then cross the midline and point down) as you sing.
Use a monster voice (loud), mouse voice (soft), turtle voice (slow), or a racehorse voice (fast).
*Encourage your students to suggest other voices and movements.

ABC Rap Clap
Begin a pattern by slapping thighs once and clapping twice.
A (slap on the letter and then clap twice)
B (slap, clap, clap)
C (slap, clap, clap)

ABC Tae Bo
I just took my first Tae Bo class and loved it because it made my brain work as hard as my body. I think your students would get a “kick” out of doing a modified Tae Bo to learn – even though I would not have them do any kicks. Simply standing and punching across the midline would be great for the body and brain.
*Self-Regulation – Before starting remind children that they must keep their hands in their own space. If they touch someone else or get out of control they will have to sit down!
Guard Position – Stand, make fists with your hands, and put them up by your face.
Talk – Say the letters as you punch from right to left.
Sounds – Make the sound for each letter as you punch.
Words – Say a word that starts with each letter as you punch.
Backwards – Say the alphabet backwards as you punch.
Count – Count forwards, backwards, skip count, etc. as you punch.

ABC Skiing
Not into Tae Bo? You can do the same thing as you pretend to ski. Bend knees, grab your poles and swish back and forth across your body as you say the alphabet.