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

Monday, November 30, 2015


Note!  My granddaughter goes to a school where they are not allowed to celebrate holidays or have any outside food.  My daughter and I were devastated when we heard that because we have so many special memories from holiday parties and sweet treats.  It makes me sad that Kalina can't sing some of my songs and do holiday activities.  But the truth is Kalina doesn't know what she's missing and so it doesn't bother her at all.  She absolutely loves school.  Her teacher and school have bent over backwards to do other special things with the children, such as a sock hop on Halloween.  You can only control what you can control, so you just have to be a little creative to give children alternative memories.

S A N T A (Tune: "BINGO")
There is a jolly bearded man
And Santa is his name-o.
S – A – N – T – A,
S – A – N – T – A,
S – A – N – T – A,
And Santa is his name-o.

He lives at the North Pole…
His wears a suit all red and white…
He makes toys for girls and boys…
He drives a sleigh with 8 reindeer…
He’ll visit you on Christmas Eve…

                          *You can download this book on my website.

Write a different letter on five sheets of paper. Draw a hand on the back of each sheet. Choose five children to hold these as you sing the song. Explain that as you sing the song, when you turn over the letter and see the hand they should clap.

Your kids are going to love this “Santa Hunt” that Sara Lensing adapted from “The Cool Bear Hunt.” 

Santa Hunt
Get out your backpacks.
Open ‘em up.
Let’s put in some cookies for Santa and his reindeer.
And, let’s put in a thermos of milk in case he gets thirsty.
Oh. and don’t forget your Christmas lights in case it gets dark.
Zip ‘em up and repeat after me.
(Children repeat each line.)
We’re gonna find Santa (March and slap thighs.)
Before Christmas day.
He has a big, round belly (Extend arms.)
And a long, white beard. (Pull down from chin.)
Look over there! (Point.)
It’s a Candy Cane Forest!
Can’t go over it. (Arms over head.)
Can’t go under. (Arms down low.)
Can’t go around it. (Circle arms.)
I guess we’ll go through it. (Open palms and shrug shoulders.)
Slurp, slurp, slurp! (Pretend to suck on candy cane.)

We’re gonna find Santa
Before Christmas day.
He has a big, round belly
And a long, white beard.
Look over there!
It’s an egg nog river.
Can’t go over it.
Can’t go under.
Can’t go around it.
I guess we’ll swim across it. (Stroke arms as if swimming.)

We’re gonna find Santa
Before Christmas day.
He has a big, round belly
And a long, white beard.
Look over there!
It’s a gingerbread house!
Can’t go over it.
Can’t go under.
Can’t go around it.
I guess we’ll go through it.
Yum, yum, yum! (Pretend to eat gingerbread.)

We’re gonna find Santa
Before Christmas day.
He has a big, round belly
And a long, white beard.
Look over there!
It’s Santa’s workshop.
Can’t go over it.
Can’t go under.
Can’t go around it.
I guess we’ll go through it.
Shhh! (Finger over lips.)
Get out your Christmas lights. (Pretend to get out lights.)
Turn them on – click.
Let’s set out the cookies and milk.
I see a big, round belly.
And a long, white beard!
It’s Santa!
He-he-he! We can’t let him see us!
Tip toe! (Tiptoe.)
Quick! Go through the gingerbread house! Yum, yum, yum,!
Swim across the egg nog river!
Go through the Candy Cane Forest! Slurp, slurp, slurp!
Go home.
Open the door.
Shut the door.
We found Santa.
Merry Christmas to all!
*Children could do a time line or a story map of the hunt for Santa as a follow up activity.

Sunday, November 29, 2015


Someone once told me that ringing bells make you happy.  Sounds good to me!  I'm tying bells on my shoes and I'm ready to "jingle all the way."
Sleigh Riding – Have children sit on the floor facing the same directions.  Demonstrate how to hold the person’s waist in front of you.  As you sing "Jingle Bells" sway forwards and backwards to the beat as if riding a sleigh.

Bell Bracelets – Let children thread several jingle bells on a pipe cleaner.  Twist the ends together to make a bracelet children can shake as you sing.

Jingle Bell Painting - You will need an empty cheese ball container or similar cylinder shape with a lid. Cut a piece of paper so you can roll it and put it in the cylinder. Take two jingle bells. Drop one in red paint and the other in green paint. Use a spoon to transfer the bells to the can. Put on the lid, then shake up the can as you sing “Jingle Bells.” Take out the paper and you’ll have a jingle bell painting!

Candy Canes

This is a craft idea that you can use to decorate your classroom.  Take a square sheet of paper (8 1/2" x 8 1/2" works well) and color around the edges with a red marker or crayon.  (Demonstrate how to cut a square by folding up the bottom edge to the side to make a triangle.  Cut off the top and you'll always have a square.)  Put a pencil at a bottom point and roll up as shown.  Tape the end, remove the pencil, and use as a pointer or decoration.
*Use the candy cane as a prompt for descriptive writing.  Children could also brainstorm creative ways to use candy canes or write original stories about how candy canes were invented.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


Don't let standards be the Grinch and steal away your fun this month. Take a look at some of these ideas I’ve got for you!

Sight Words- Each day let children write a high frequency word on a strip of paper and glue the ends to make a link in a chain. They can practice reading over previous words each day as they add a new word and link.
Snowman Math - Give children the outline of a snowman similar to the one shown. They can take buttons or other manipulatives and place sets in the top two sections. Join them together in the bottom circle to make the sum. Ask students to write the equation.

*Give children a certain number of buttons. How many different combinations can the make on the snowman to come up with the same sum?

Timeline – Give children long pieces of paper so they can make a time line of the “Gingerbread Man.” (I cut my strips from grocery sacks.)
*Read several versions of the “Gingerbread Man” and compare and contrast.

Descriptive Writing – Fold 2 sheets of paper in half and staple to make a book for each child. Children think of a title for their books and add their name as author and illustrator. Have them write and complete the following statements on each page:
     My (holiday) smells like…
     My (holiday) looks like…
     My (holiday) sounds like…
     My (holiday) feels like…
     My (holiday) tastes like…

*For younger children run off the sentences and let them dictate sentences.

Preposition Elf – Hide an elf (Elf on the Shelf or one of his friends) or similar seasonal toy in a different place in the room every day. Encourage children to use complete sentences as they describe where the elf is.

*Let children take turns hiding the toy and calling on friends to describe its location.

Friday, November 27, 2015


Some of you will be shopping today and some of you will be working on lesson plans for December.  Over the next week I’ll post art projects, gifts children can make, recipes, and lots of FUN ideas.  Although you probably haven’t finished your turkey leftovers, I know you need ideas sooner rather than later so you can collect materials and integrate these ideas into your lesson plans. 

Note!  If you do not celebrate holidays in your schools, feel free to adapt these projects. 

*You can trace around their hands and cut them out, or let children dip their hands in paint and print.  You could also use fabric paint and make holiday shirts with their handprints.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Some of you are cooking, some of you are traveling, some of you are sleeping, but I hope you all take a moment today to pause and...

     Make a list of your blessings. 

     Call someone who has done something nice for you.

     Write an email or send a card to someone you appreciate.

     Acknowledge the positive traits of others around you instead of their negative traits.

     Think of all the people who have done you good and forgive those who have hurt you.

     Do a little act of kindness today and every day.

Several weeks ago my exercise instructor said her church gave everybody a twenty dollar bill and told them to give it to a random person who looked like they needed a little love.  As they handed the $20 they were to smile and say, "You are special and God loves you."  I thought it was such a great idea I've given away five $20 in the past two weeks.  One went to a convenience store clerk, another to a housekeeper, a tired looking fast food server... I've been blessed more than the people I've given the money to.  And, it's not the money.  It's an acknowledgment that I recognize you and appreciate you.  Somebody cares.

I appreciate each of YOU!  Thank you for caring for children every day!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Yay!!! It's almost Turkey Day!

I'm in eating and party mode and I hope you are as well. Here's a flash mob we did at the NAEYC Conference last week in Orlando. It was a last minute thing, but it was so much fun!!!

California Here I Come!
I've got a few more workshops coming up in December if you live in CA or NJ.  (I'm smiling because one teacher said her principal wouldn't give her permission to go so she said she had a "doctor's appointment."  She wasn't lying because she went to see "DR." Jean!)

December 3rd - Concord, CA  ( for details)
December 4th - Rancho Cordova, CA   (
December 11th - West Orange, NJ  (

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


You know that I don’t try to do commercials on my blog, but I’ve got as much on my mind today as you do, so I’ll just throw this out there.
If you’re out shopping this weekend, here’s an inexpensive product that kids and grown-ups alike will enjoy. Crayola makes WINDOW MARKERS and WINDOW MARKERS WITH CRYSTAL EFFECTS that are washable and will bring out creativity in anyone. They’d make a great holiday gift or stocking stuffer, or just put them out to entertain guests when you’re busy cooking.

*Yes, they really do wash off! K.J. and Kalina had as much fun cleaning up with the spray bottle and rag as they did drawing.

As a teacher, here are some other uses for the markers in your classroom:

Write letters, words, numerals, shapes, or anything you want to reinforce on windows or mirrors.
*Let children wear sunglasses and identify the information with a pointer.

Let children practice writing letters, numerals, spelling words, etc. on classroom windows.
* How about rainbow writing? Make giant letters, shapes, words, etc. on windows. Children can take the markers and trace around the figures with different colors.

Use these as a reward or when children finish their work early.

Use the classroom mirror as a message board to write words of encouragement, reminders, or to celebrate accomplishments.

Special Days
Let children decorate classroom windows for holidays, seasons, themes, or other special events.

Write a word or theme and invite children to add their own thoughts to the window.

Sign In
Children can write their name or a special message when they come to school each morning.

What an open-ended art center this could be throughout the year!

Note! You could even have “window washer” as a classroom job. I found it was best to wipe off the marks with a wet towel before using a window cleaner.

Monday, November 23, 2015


Have you noticed some students who just can’t seem to keep their hands to themselves? These are some "tricks" that might be particularly helpful in the weeks ahead.

Get a box and write “brain toys” on the it. Next, get some old socks and tie knots in them. When children need to focus invite them to get a “brain toy” from the box. They can hold the sock, untie it, tie knots, and give their fingers something to do.

I’ve had teachers say, “Well, what if everybody wants a sock?” Who cares? Get a sock for everyone. The main goal is to give children an outlet that is acceptable, quiet, and won’t bother another student.

A similar idea came from a first grade teacher. She gave each of her students a jumbo craft stick to decorate. They tied a 20” piece of string to their sticks and kept them in their desks. When their hands got “figdgety” they could get out their fiddle sticks and wind and unwind the string.

One of the simplest ideas for fidgety fingers came from a teacher a few weeks ago who taught her children to cross their fingers and wiggle their thumbs. Then she challenged them to wiggle their index fingers, pinkies, etc.

You just never know what will work until you try! I recall a teacher who kept a bottle of lotion on her desk and called it “self control lotion.” When her students were having trouble paying attention she would give them a squirt of lotion and tell them to rub it in. They believed her just like Dumbo believed he could fly with the feather in his trunk! Her students would actually come up to her and say, “I need a little self control lotion.”

Sunday, November 22, 2015


Need a new idea this week?  Here's a great lesson to tie in the "olden days" with life in 2015.  Bring in a typewriter, rotary phone, camera, and record player.  (The real thing would be best, but photos will work as well).  Show these one at a time to your students and see if they know what it is.  What do we use now that is similar?
*Note!  Any literature before 2000 will have these tools and so it's importance to help children make the connections.

Sing this traditional song and then compare it with the contemporary version.

Over the River (Traditional Tune – Happy Everything CD)
Over the river and through the woods
(Pretend to hold reins of a sleigh as you bounce up and down.)
To grandmother’s house we go.
The horse knows the way
To carry the sleigh
Through the white and drifted snow.
Over the river and through the woods,
Oh, how the wind does blow.
(Wrap arms around self and shiver.)
It stings your toes and bites your nose
(Touch nose and point to toes.)
As over the ground we go.
Through the country and cities far
(Pretend to drive a car.)
In sun or wind or rain.
We might go by train
We might take a plane.
(Fly hand like a plane in the air.)
Or maybe a bus or car.
Through low valleys and mountains high
(Look down low and then up.)
Now, grandmother’s house I spy. (Hand over eyes.)
Hurrah, for the fun! (Fist in the air.)
Is the turkey done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

Use a Venn diagram to compare what it would be like to visit grandmother a long time ago and how we visit now. How are things the same? 
Make a graph of how they will travel to their Thanksgiving dinner. Car? Plane? Train? Bus? Boat? Stay at home!

Have children interview their grandparents to see what Thanksgiving was like when they were a child.

Thankful Books
Give each child 2 paper plates. Use the plates as a pattern to cut circular pages for the book. Children can draw, write, or cut out pictures of things they are thankful for on the blank paper. Insert their pages between the paper plates, punch a hole at the top, and use a ribbon or a piece of a pipe cleaner to bind the book. 
Purchase seasonal napkins at a dollar store. Cut blank paper the size of the napkin and insert inside. Staple at the top and the children will be ready to write or draw in their book.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Manners can take you a long way in this world - although they are not included in most state standards! Manners are part of the “hidden curriculum” that we can nurture daily in little ways. This is a perfect time of year to talk about thanking others and what it means to be polite. Here’s a simple echo song to encourage children to use their “magic words.”

I Have Manners (Tune: “Are You Sleeping?” - Children repeat each line.)
I have manners,
I have manners,
Every day,
Every day.
If I want something
If I want something
“Please,” I’ll say.
“Please,” I’ll say.

I have manners,
I have manners,
Every day,
Every day.
When someone is nice
When someone is nice
“Thanks,” I’ll say.
“Thanks,” I’ll say.

*Role play when to say, “please,” “thank you,” “you’re welcome,” and “excuse me.”

*Teach children these signs and use them as prompts:
     Please palm open on chest and circle around
     Thank you fingers on chin and then down to palm

*Let the children use puppets to model what to do in similar situations:
     How do you greet a new student?
     How do you call a friend and invite them for a play date?
     What do you do when someone pays you a compliment?
     What do you do when someone gives you a gift?
     What do you do when someone has a book that you want?

Table Manners
There are several good books about manners, but I liked to use a stuffed animal to demonstrate negative behavior. I’d ask the children to help me show the toy the correct thing to do.
     “Coco always chews with his mouth open. Who can show Coco the correct way to chew your food?”
     "Coco just grabs food that he wants. What is the polite thing to do when you want someone to pass you food?”
     “Coco eats his food and then runs out to play. What should Coco say before he leaves the table?”

Friday, November 20, 2015


Although most children grumble about doing chores, jobs at home can be a powerful way to develop “task initiation and task completion.” Chores also help children feel “worthy” and a valuable part of the family unit.

We often “assume” that children know how to do a task and then we get frustrated when they don’t do it correctly. That’s why it’s important to model expectations and demonstrate specific steps. Here's an activity that would be perfect for a learning center or housekeeping area.

Setting the Table
Bring in some plastic plates, utensils, and cups and demonstrate how to set the table. You might want to trace around the items on a paper placemat so the children can match one to one.

Training Tools
Go to the dollar store and purchase a dustpan, broom, duster, etc. Demonstrate how to use these and then invite children to help you keep the classroom clean.

*I had a Dust Buster in my classroom that the kids loved to use. If there was a mess we would say, “Who you gonna call? Dust buster!”

Teeny Tiny Duties
There are some tasks that young children can do at home and some that are way too difficult. Let children share the chores that they have at home. Make a list of these tasks on the board. Ask children to choose several three or four that they could do to help at home and make a job chart. Tell them to hang it on the refrigerator and keep track for a week. Demonstrate how to make a check mark each day when they complete the task.

*Remind your students that they are responsible for doing the job without having their parents tell them!

Thursday, November 19, 2015


"I don't want to do this!" Sound familiar? One teacher told her students, “I don’t want to do it either, so let’s just get it done and then we can do something fun.” 

There’s an important life lesson here. We all have to do things we don’t want to do. The best thing is to just do it and then you can focus on the things you want to do! Task initiation and delayed gratification are also characteristics of the executive function that we want to encourage. I like to use personal stories that children can relate to when teaching social behaviors. "You know, I really don't enjoy cleaning my house. However, I've learned to just get started and do it and then I can do something fun. Has that ever happened to you?"

Here's a song to the tune of "Three Blind Mice" that might help your students "git 'er dun"!
Just do it!
Just do it!
Put on a grin
And start right in.
If there’s something you don’t want to do.
I have a little trick for you.
Just get started and soon you’ll be through.
Just do it!
Just do it!

You Get What You Get
Have you ever heard your students say, "I don't want that one!" Here's a tune to "The Farmer in the Dell" with a positive twist. Smile and sing and ignore the negative comments.
You get what you get.
You get what you get.
Just like in the gum machine,
You get what you get.

And I just had to include this cartoon today!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Remember last week when I shared an idea from Ezabel Decker called the "fist list"? As you give directions the children hold up a finger for each step to help them remember. What a simple way to nurture the executive function. When you give an assignment and then ask a student to repeat the information to their classmates, you are developing the executive function. When you sing a song or do a movement activity that has a beginning and ending you are encouraging children to develop impulse control. When you play "freeze" that's also self-regulation. If your schedule is posted in the classroom, if you have routines, if you have rules, if you have open-ended centers where children must start and complete a task are actually setting the stage for children to develop the executive function. These techniques are the qualities of good teaching from pre-k through graduate school.

When you look at this list you will realize that you are already implementing many of these each day. What are your strengths? What can you improve on?

Be specific with goals and expectations.

Give clear step-by-step instructions with visual cues.

Repeat and rephrase tasks.

Demonstrate and model what you expect students to do.

Teach systematically and explicitly. Go from simple to complex and concrete to abstract.

Provide students with group and independent activities.

Repetition is important, but remember to provide students with guidance and feedback.

Follow routines and be consistent.

Post the daily schedule and go over it in the morning and after lunch.

Summarize, review, and recall.

Use behavior management with clear rules and procedures.

Reward, encourage, and praise.

Use natural consequences to discipline. Tie behavior to how it impacts the student and others.

Use folders, trays, boxes, and files to organize work.

Teach students how to prioritize.

Teach note-taking strategies.

Have students recite and record information.

Use graphic organizers, acronyms, and mnemonic devices to help students remember.

Use self-assessments, rubrics, and checklists.

Encourage students to do self-reflection and set goals.

Eliminate outside distractions to help students focus.

Engage students’ attention with projects that are creative, novel, and challenging.

Listening Body
I love it when a teacher says, “Dr. Jean, you need to make up a song about (such and such).” Here’s a positive way to prompt children to self-regulate as you sing to the tune of “This Old Man.”
Are you ready to learn with me?
Check your body and then you’ll see.
Eyes, ears, mouth, hands, and feet.
Check your listening body, please.

Eyes watching? (Children respond, “Check.”)
Ears listening? (Children respond, “Check.”)
Hands quiet? (Children respond, “Check.”)
Feet still? (Children respond, “Check.”)
Mouths closed? (Children nod and say, “Mmm.”)
Want to know more?

Kaufman, C. (2010). Executive function in the classroom: Practical strategies for improving performance and enhancing skills for all students. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

Diamond, A. (2010). Ways to improve executive function. (

Tough, P. (September 25, 2009). Can the right kinds of play teach self-control? The New York Times.

What all teachers need to know: the role of executive function processes in the classroom. (

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


You know something is important when Cookie Monster gets in on the act! Cookie Monster is demonstrating the executive function of self-regulation and delayed gratification in this new video.

Executive Function has been receiving a great deal of attention because it seems to be a bigger predictor of academic success and life success than IQ. It’s a trait that begins in infancy and continues to develop throughout childhood into adolescence. An interesting aspect of EF is that it tends to transfer from one situation to the next. A child who learns to self-regulate in the classroom will also find it easier to self-regulate on the soccer field. There are many facets to executive function, and it’s helpful to think of a child on a continuum, rather than having or lacking EF. Definitions of EF are broad and diverse, but these are some common characteristics of the executive function:

Inhibition – can think about consequences before acting

Self-regulation – can stop oneself from inappropriate behavior

Initiation – starts new tasks independently

Organization – can organize thoughts as well as materials

Planning – can think through steps and prioritize

Time Management – predicts how long things will take and works at an appropriate speed

Adaptability and Flexibility – is able to shift focus and adapt strategies

Working Memory – can keep information in one’s mind (aka teacher’s directions)

Multi-tasks – can deal with several things simultaneously

Self-awareness – chooses a level that is not too difficult or too easy - asks for help when necessary

Emotional Control – is aware of and can manage feelings

Personal Satisfaction – derives pleasure from reinforcers

Focus – can attend to details and avoid being distracted

Self-monitoring – can reflect on one’s work and evaluate personal performance

Delayed Gratification – resists immediate reward for a larger reward later

Does this sound like the “star student”? The student who can multi-task, works independently, gets along with others, follows directions, enjoys learning, obeys rules, etcetera, etcetera. It also sounds like the job description for “employee of the month.”

The reason I think teachers need to be familiar with the executive function is because it validates many of the things we have always done with children, such as centers, partner projects, open-ended activities, and so forth.  Come back tomorrow for some teacher tips on nurturing the executive function in your classroom.

Monday, November 16, 2015


Mickey, Minnie, Harry Potter, too.
I'm coming to Orlando
and I can't wait to see you!

The National Association for the Education of Young Children has their national conference in Orlando this week. NAEYC is always exciting, and mix that up with Disney World and Universal Studios and you've got a GOOD time!

I'll be in the Abrams Learning Trends Booth (#632) with all the Letter People on Thursday and Friday. We'll sing, dance, and do lots of fun make-n-take projects. Topics include handshakes, oral language, emergent math, action rhymes, emergent literacy, class books, cheers, and closing songs. Don't forget to bring your camera so we can take some pictures.

There will also be a Sing-Along Event Thursday from 4:45-6:30 at the Rosen Centre Hotel (Salons 1 & 2). There will be free food, drinks, prizes, and we're even going to have a "make a memory video" from 6:00-6:20.

Travel Books
Here's an idea for the next time you take a little vacation. Take photos and then put them together to make a book for your classroom. An easy caption for each page might be, "Teacher's name what do you see? I see tourist attraction looking at me." 

Note!  The teacher who shared this idea said her children loved the travel books that she made over the years. She said many of her children never went more than a few miles from their home, but they'd go to the classroom library and say, "Let's go to Disney World with Ms. Wilson today."

Hint!  Collect free brochures when you travel for your classroom library.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


November 16 is Button Day…for real! Here are some thoughts on how to integrate buttons into your lesson plans any day.  And, don't forget to read PETE THE CAT AND HIS FOUR GROOVY BUTTONS today!

Hint! I bought my bag of buttons at Walmart, but you could ask parents to send in extra buttons they don’t want for a learning activity. (That might be a good homework assignment.)

*Have children count the number of buttons they have on. Who has the most? Who has zero? Tally how many in the entire class.
*Have children form groups with friends who have the same number of buttons.
*Use the buttons children bring in for math activities. Let them sort the buttons. What was their sorting rule? Can they sort them another way? 
*Write numerals on cups and have children make appropriate sets in the cups using the buttons.

*Make patterns with buttons and use buttons for addition and subtraction.

*Let children choose one button and glue it in the middle of a sheet of construction paper. Can they create a picture incorporating the button?
*Give children pipe cleaners or dental floss and let the string buttons to make necklaces and bracelets. (You’ll probably have to limit the number of buttons each child can use.)
*Make cardboard picture frames and let children glue on buttons. Insert their photo for a perfect gift for mom or dad.

*Play “Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?” This is really a silly game, but my kids loved it. Choose one child to be “it” and hide a button. Choose 3 or 4 other children to leave the classroom and stand in the hall. The rest of the students cup their hands together as if they are holding something. “It” walks around the room and places the button in one friend’s cupped hands. The children in the hall are then called back to the classroom and everyone chants, “Button, button, who’s got the button?” The students from the hall walk around opening hands until someone finds the button. They become the new “it” and the game continues.

*Let children make up their own game using buttons.

*Demonstrate how to sew on a button. Now, that’s a novel idea! I bet some of your kids have never seen someone use a needle and thread. 
                You’ll be cute as a button if you do some of these activities!

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Isn’t it nice to be missed? If a child has been absent, they will feel special when they return to school with this song to the tune of “The Bear Went over the Mountain.”

     Welcome back child’s name.
     Welcome back child’s name.
     Welcome back child’s name.
     We’re glad you’re here today.

Good-Bye Book
I mentioned this book last spring when K.J. and Kalina left on a long trip and wouldn’t be back to school. Kalina’s teacher asked each child to draw a picture for her and then they made it into a book. K.J.’s teacher did nothing. Moving away or going to a new school is painful for children. We’ve all felt that sense of loss when we have moved or said good-bye to friends. This book would give children a meaningful way to let their friend know they will be missed. And it would be something the parting child could hold onto and visit when they leave.

*Hint! A class photo would make a great cover.

Friday, November 13, 2015


You know, I really miss being in the classroom. O.K., I don’t miss everything, but I sure miss having fun with the kids. They were my best audience and I loved coming up with tricks to capture their interest. One of my favorites was Ralph the Rag. I took an old towel and knotted it at the top and used it like a puppet to focus the children’s attention. I would let Ralph sit on my hand and say:

This is my buddy Ralph the Rag. Let’s see if you can do everything that Ralph does. (I’d lean Ralph one way and wait for them to follow. Then I’d lean Ralph the other way. I’d shake his head, move him backwards, etc. Then I’d have Ralph stand up. The children would follow along as I made him turn around, jump, and so forth. I always ended by having Ralph sit quietly back in my hand.)

If the children didn’t follow along with Ralph or if they kept talking I’d pretend to cry and be Ralph. “The boys and girls aren’t listening to me so I’m just going to go away.” They’d say, “No, Ralph. We’ll be quiet and listen to you. Don’t go away.”

It was fun and it worked for a week or so.

Another trick I used was the Quiet Family. I placed some little toy figures in a lunchbox and said “I have some little friends that would like to visit our class. However, the friends have teeny tiny ears so you’ll have to use teeny tiny voices today.” The class would agree to this and I would open the lunch box and take out the friends. If someone got too loud I could count on another classmate to say, “Shhh! Remember our friends and their little ears!”

You’ve just got to create your own happiness and fun every day! I’d love to hear some of your stories.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


If you’ve got a minute to spare, I’ve got some jokes for you. Yes, you can count these as using “instructional time” because you can integrate phonological awareness and double meanings of words. You might want to write one each day on the board and discuss it at morning meeting. It’s also good to tell these multiple times because it will take some of your kiddles a while to “get it.”

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?

Gladys who?
Gladys Thanksgiving, aren’t you?

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Harry who?
Harry up, I’m hungry!

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Aida who?
Aida let you in if I knew it was you.

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Dewey who?
Dewey have to wait long to eat?

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Arthur who?
Arthur any leftovers?

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Waddle who?
Waddle I do without you?

What kind of music did the Pilgrims Like?
Plymouth Rock

What key won’t open any door?
A turkey.

If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?

Why was the turkey the drummer in the band?
Because he had drumsticks.

Why did the turkey cross the road?
It was the chicken’s day off.

Why did the chewing gum cross the road?
It was stuck on the turkey’s foot.

Which side of the turkey has the most feathers?
The outside.

What do you find at the end of Thanksgiving?
The letter ‘G.’

What always comes at the beginning of parades?
The letter ‘P’.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Tell and draw stories are something that children and teachers ask for again and again. I was going through old files I found this one called OWA TAGOO SIAM. This is good for listening skills and sequencing. Do it the first time and you’ll have a few kids “get it” at the end. On the second telling, leave out some words and let children supply the missing information. After several times invite the children to join you in drawing and telling the story.
Once there was a little old lady who lived out in the country.

Her house was shaped like an oval.  (head)

It had a little window that was a circle.  (eye)

She had a garden beside her house.  (beak)

And she planted seeds there.

Near her house there was a lake.  (body)

And there was a little island in the lake.  (wing)

Campers from the city would come and pitch tents by the lake.  (feet)

They would walk to the lake to look at the fish in the water.  (legs)

They would also watch the geese on the island.

But the people made so much noise they scared the geese and away they flew.  (feathers)

The little old lady heard all the commotion and went down to the lake to see what was going on.  (neck)

What do you think she saw?

When she got home she laughed and said, “OWA TAGOO SIAM!”

Say this faster and faster and it will sound like, “Oh, what a goose I am!”

Here’s a copy that might be a little easier to follow:

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


If you've got 2 or 3 minutes after you've read a story or taught a lesson, these are some quick ways to assess learning and recall information. These ideas can be adapted for fiction or non-fiction literature, math, science, or social studies. All your students will be engaged and can reflect on what they've learned. That's a win/win!!

Sign Language
Teach children sign language for “yes” (make a fist and nod it up and down) and “no” (extend middle and index finger from thumb and open and close. As you ask questions, children respond with the appropriate sign.

Teach sign language for "connection" (thumbs make circles with index fingers and join like a chain). Discuss that when they connect what is in the book with what is in their brain they make a "schema." If they've made a "schema" they can show you with their hands. Call on random students to explain how they connected personally with the book.

Show Me
You will need two index cards. Write “yes” on one and “no” on the other. Children place these on the surface in front of them. As the teacher asks questions, the children hold up the appropriate word.

Seal an envelope and cut it in half. Write “yes” on one side and “no” on the other side.

Stump the Teacher
Explain to the children that they get to be the teacher and ask you questions. Remind them to think about what they want to ask you before raising their hand. They must also know the answer to the question they are going to ask.