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Thursday, December 31, 2015


It’s pretty amazing, but if you tell the brain to pay attention to something important it will! Here are a few ways to jump start your children’s brains in 2016.

Turn on Your Brain
Start your day by having the children turn on their brains.
Turn on the left side of your brain. (Make a twisting motion on left.)
Turn on the right side of your brain. (Make a twisting motion on right.)
Turn on your left eye. (Pretend to twist left eye.)
Turn on your right eye. (Pretend to twist right eye.)
Turn on your left ear. (Pretend to twist left ear.)
Turn on your right ear. (Pretend to twist right ear.)
You don’t have to turn on your mouth because it stays on all the time.
Now you are ready to learn!!!

Rev Up Your Brain
Have the children hold up their thumbs. Go around, grab each child’s thumbs, and pretend to twist them as you say, “Rrrrrm! Rrrrrm! Now your brain revved up and ready to learn.”

Brain Sprinkles
Put a few spoonfuls of rice in a Pringle’s can and glue on the lid. Cover the can with sparkly paper. When it’s something important for the children to learn explain that you will put brain sprinkles on them. (Shake the can over their heads!)

Hocus Pocus!
Pretend to wave a magic wand as you say, “Hocus pocus!”
Put thumbs and pointers together to make circles and place around your eyes as you say, “Everybody focus!” Have the students leave on their focus goggles and look at the front of a book, a shape, a word, or whatever you want them to attend to.

Children stick out their index finger and tap a friend’s finger as they go, “Bzzzz!”

Thinking Caps
Goodness, this is old as the hills. Mrs. Meyers, my first teacher, used to say this to us. As ancient as it is, it’s still new to your little kiddos. Remind them that their thinking caps will help them remember and learn as you demonstrate putting an imaginary hat on your head.

Thinking Hands
Explain that when you cross your fingers and put your hands in your lap it helps your brain listen and learn.

Make circles with thumbs and index fingers and join them together to make a connection. Tell children as they listen to a book they can make this sign to let you know they are connecting what is in the book to what is in their brain.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


If I were in charge of the world I would start 2016 by giving each child a pocket folder that they could decorate for a poetry folder. Each week I would choose a poem, nursery rhyme, or song to add to their poetry notebooks and I would use it to integrate standards in a meaningful way. 
Monday - Introduce the poem as a shared reading experience. Reread the poem several times. Let children use pointers to find letters or words they can recognize, point out words that rhyme, punctuation, etc.

Tuesday - Give children individual copies of the poem. Let them illustrate the poem, hole punch it, and put it in their notebook.
Hint! Give children blank paper to encourage creativity and their imaginations.

Wednesday - Use the poem for skill work during small group. Highlight parts of speech, sight words, etc.

Thursday - Children bring notebooks to large group and reread this week’s rhyme and review previous poems.

Friday - Children read poems independently or with a buddy.

Weekend Homework - On Friday, let children take home their poetry notebooks. Ask children to read the poem to someone in their family over the weekend. Encourage parents to sign their name and write their comments and compliments on each poem.


You’ve read this idea before on my blog, but it bears repeating because I think it would add a little sunshine to dreary January and February. It would be utilizing instructional time, but more importantly it would put a love of poetry in the children’s hearts!

What to do!
Write a note next Monday asking each family to send in a box of instant hot chocolate and an old coffee mug. Explain that you will end each Friday with the “Poetry CafĂ©” where children can listen to poetry, recite poetry, and enjoy a mug of hot chocolate. Remind parents that this will be an engaging way to develop listening skills, oral language, and an appreciation of literature.

Hint! If you teach at a school where no outside food is allowed check to make sure this idea would be permissible. You could ask the parents to send instant tea or any beverage that their child could enjoy.

*If you are at a school where parents might not have the ability to do this I bet there’s a retired teacher (like me) in your community who would be thrilled to do this for your class.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Integrate writing standards with your lesson plans next week using these blank books.

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow - Make a brochure by folding a piece of paper into thirds.   Label the sections “Yesterday”…”Today…”Tomorrow…”  Children draw what they were like when they were little (babies or toddlers), what they look like now, and what they will be like when they are grown-up.
*You could also let children make a time line of their lives.  (Writing Standard W.3)

New Year's Resolutions Flip Book
What is a New Year's resolution?  Why do people make resolutions?  
Make a flip book by folding a sheet of paper in half lengthwise.  Fold in half.  Fold in half again.  Open.  Cut halfway to the center fold as shown.  Write the numerals "2016" on the flips.  Children open each one and write (or draw) a goal for the New Year. 

Soaring in 2016 - Let children draw (or write) goals for the New Year on a blank sheet of paper.  Fold the paper into an airplane.  Children state their goal and then fly their plane across the room (or outside).

What I Didn't Get for Christmas!  Here's a novel writing topic to discourage children from bragging about what they "got"!

Ring in the New Year
(Tune:  “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”)
Let’s all do a little ringing,  (Shake hands as if ringing bells.)
Let’s all do a little ringing,
Let’s all do a little ringing
It’s a Happy New Year!

Let’s all do a little clapping…  (Clap hands.)
Let’s all do a little dancing…   (Dance around.)
Let’s all do a little smiling…    (Smile.)

When is your birthday?
When is your birthday?
When is your birthday?
Stand up and cheer.

(Say months of the year.)
January, February, March…(Children stand up on their birthday month.)

Let’s all be a little kinder…  (Pat friends on the back.)
For a Happy New Year!
*Download this book at  

Monday, December 28, 2015


Mitten Weather
Thumbs in the thumb place      (Stick out thumbs.)
Fingers all together.                  (Put fingers together.)
This is the song
We sing in mitten weather.        (Wiggle palms left and right.)
When it is cold                           (Wrap arms around self and shiver.)
It does not matter whether         (Shake head.)
Mittens are wool                        (Hold out right hand.)
Or made of finest leather.          (Hold out left hand.)

Mitten Applause
This is a quiet way to teach the children to applaud.  Thumbs up and palms open facing each other.  Pretend to clap stopping about 2" from each palm as if wearing mittens.

The three little kittens may have lost their mittens, but here's a pattern so you can make your own mittens for these games.

Visual Matching
Cut mittens out of a wallpaper book or wrapping paper.  Cut two out of each pattern and then mix them up.  Give children clothespins to clip the matching ones together.  Introduce vocabulary to describe various patterns, such as “stripes,” “checked,” “plaid,” “solid,” “polka dots,” “animal print,” etc.
*Make mitten matching games with upper and lowercase letters or with pictures and beginning sounds.
*Make mitten matching games with antonyms or snynonyms.
*How about a matching game with math facts and answers?
Hint! Hang a piece of string between two chairs so the children can hang up their matching mittens.

Kitten Game
One person is “Mama” or “Papa” cat.  “Mama” or “Papa” go out in the hall while the teacher selects 3-5 students to be their kittens.  All students put their heads on their desks.  The students who are kittens begin make quiet “meowing” noises.  “Mama” or “Papa” cat must walk around the room and try to identify their kittens.  When a kitten is found that student puts her hand in the air.  The last kitten to be found becomes the new “Mama” or “Papa” cat.

Mitten Art
Let children trace around mitten patterns and cut out two.  Can they decorate the mittens with crayons or markers so they look exactly the same?   Hole punch around the sides of the mittens and sew with yarn.
Hint!  Wrap the end of the yarn with tape to make it easier to sew.
The Mitten
Select several different versions of “The Mitten” and read them to your class.  Compare and contrast stories and illustrations.  Let the children vote on their favorite.
*This is also a delightful tale to dramatize.  A blanket on the floor works just fine as a mitten.

Sunday, December 27, 2015


Are you working on your lesson plans today? These activities don't have "rigor," but they'll add a little fun to a cold January day.

Snow Dough

You can use any play dough recipe for snow dough. Simply omit the food coloring and let the children knead in iridescent glitter to make it sparkle. (My favorite dough is: 2 cups flour, 2 cup salt, 2 TB. cream of tartar, 2 TB. vegetable oil, and 2 cups water. Mix ingredients together in a pan until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture forms a ball and sticks to the spoon. Cool and knead. Store in airtight containers.)
Note! Make sure children wash hands before and after playing with dough.

Add a little learning! Have children make objects that reinforce language skills, such as things that rhyme or objects that start with the same sound.
*Have children use play dough to show different ways to make a number.
*Let them make two and three dimensional shapes with the dough. 

Snow Flakes 
Let children fold coffee filters in half, then fourths, and eighths. Cut little “bites” out of the folded edges. Open. You can make colorful snowflakes by coloring the coffee filters with water soluble markers before cutting them.
*You can also use tissue paper or newspaper to make snowflakes.
Add a little learning! Give children copy paper cut in circles and challenge them to fill the page with sight words, letters, vocabulary words, or any skill you want to reinforce. Now, let them fold the paper and make a snowflake out of it. Can they still identify the words and letters they wrote?

Snow Prints
Invite children to draw winter scenes on blue construction paper with crayons. Give them white paint and a sponge or Q-tip to “make it snow.”

Add a little learning! Write winter vocabulary words or stories and then make it snow.        

Ice Skating 
Give each child 2 paper plates. Demonstrate how to place these on the floor and put one foot on each plate. Slide your feet as if skating. Put on some waltz music and let the children skate, twist, and turn. Play “freeze.” When you stop the music children must “freeze” in their positions. When the music begins again they may continue to skate.

Add a little learning! Write letters, words, math facts, etc. on the plates. When the music stops the children have to exchange plates with a friend and identify the information on the new plates.

Give children scrap paper and have them write sight words, letters, math facts, or other skills on them. Divide the class into two teams and have them stand on opposite sides of the room. Wad up the paper to make snowballs. When the teacher says, "Let it snow!" the children begin throwing the snowballs at the opposite team. They must quickly find a snowball, open it, and identify the information before throwing it back at the other team.

Let It Snow!
You will need jumbo craft sticks and an empty plastic cup for this game. Write simple sentences, sight words, letters, math facts, etc. on the sticks with a permanent marker. Glue a snowflake to the end of 2 sticks. Place the sticks in the can with the snowflakes on the bottom. Children pass the cup around, choose a stick, and read the information. If they choose the snowflake they sing, "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!" and put all  their sticks back.

Fill plastic containers with water. Add food coloring and freeze. Place these in your water table and tell the children they are icebergs. Add walruses, polar bears, and other plastic arctic animals.

Add a little learning! Have children predict how long it will take the "icebergs" to melt. Who guessed the closest time?

Saturday, December 26, 2015


I received an email recently from a teenager who liked my “Banana Dance.” She asked, “Are you a real doctor or just a doctor of fun?” What could be better than being called a Dr. of Fun!
e.e. cummings is one of the only poets I remember from college because of the delightful words he made up like “mud-lucious” and puddle-wonderful.” Lots of new words pop up every day now, such as FUNNESS. This is the definition I found on the interenet: “ Funness describes the most ultimate in any experience which would be described as fun, joyful, blissful, satisfactory, or even pleasurable. The epitome of fun.” That’s what childhood and learning should be in the best of worlds. (By the way, “funness” can also be used sarcastically, but I’m using the positive connotation.)

Engagement is a term that is appearing frequently in educational discussions because so many teachers seem to be struggling with getting children to focus and pay attention. Children are disengaging from the real world and living in a passive state where all the action takes place on the screen. A little more “funness” might be the answer to the dilemma. As I often say, “You have to reach them before you can teach them!”

Let’s see how we can add a little “funness” to engage children in learning and life in 2016!

1. Look your children in their eyes and smile. I don’t care where I go when I sing “I like you there’s no doubt about it” I have children in the palm of my hand.

2. Give you students 100% of your attention. Be in the moment!!! Send the message that YOU are the most important thing in the world right now. I’m giving you my best and I need to you to do the same.

3. Brain Research 101 says the brain likes anything that is novel, challenging, and new. Put something in a bag or box to create interest. Wear a pair of silly glasses. Use a strange voice.

4. Be enthusiastic! Teachers can add the magic to anything with their facial expressions, voice, and body language. Shut your door and be silly when you play a game or sing a song.

5. Physical proximity! Get close to your students. Create an intimate space by having the children sit on the floor in a circle. A gentle touch can send a positive message to the brain.

6. Do a movement activity to focus those busy hands. Lead children in a cheer or a clapping pattern. Use call backs and attention grabbers.

7. Turn skills you are working on into a game. When you say “game” that gets translated into children’s language as “play.”

8. Activate children’s senses. Keep them focused by stimulating their eyes, ears, and bodies.

9. Give students the opportunity to talk. People remember 70% of what they say. When children respond orally or talk with friends they are more likely to remember.

10. Use their name frequently. You might have a child day dreaming and simply saying their name will bring them back to reality.

Make it a New Year's Resolution to add a little “funness” to your curriculum every day. It will engage your students and it will also make your job more FUN for you!

Come back tomorrow and I've got a few ideas on how to "sugar coat" those standards!!

Friday, December 25, 2015


Selective nostalgia is the ability to remember the good times.  We've all had joyful times and we've all had troubles and hurts.  Just for today I hope you have special memories of the past and create a few happy moments to save in your heart.


Monday, December 21, 2015


Look on the Bright Side Day is today (For real! I don't make this stuff up.) It's a day to be optimistic and look for something positive. Between the shopping, baking, trimming, and wrapping there's got to be a smile and a warm feeling in your heart.
And on the bright side, I'm going to give this blog a vacation until the 26th of December. I’ll end with a clever song written by Lester Lamb:

I've been working in the classroom
All along the way...
I've been working in the classroom
Learning new things everyday...
You can see the teacher teaching.
You can see the students learning, too.
I've been working in the classroom
May GOD continue to bless you!

Sunday, December 20, 2015


I'm so excited! I just received my dates and locations for summer camp and I hope you'll join me. If someone says, "What do you want for Christmas?" now you have something special to ask for. Summer Camp is two days and besides all the friends you'll make there will be games, crafts, songs, and FUN! Seriously, it will be a blast, but we'll also explore how to take those standards and turn them into something playful, planful, and purposeful! 
Here are the dates and locations for 2016. (You'll be able to get more information from in a few weeks.)
     June 21-22 Phoenix, AZ
     July 26-27 Albany, NY
     August 2-3 Manchester, NH

Day One
8:30 – 10:00 am
Energize the Brain
Morning Meeting Move and Learn
What’s in Your Mystery Basket of Ingredients? What Are Your Needs?
Review of Brain Research – Active Learning – 21st Century Skills -
Intentional Teaching – Executive Function
10:00 – 10:30 am  Break
10:30 – 11:45 am
Tools for Language Arts
Singing Sounds
Word Power
Comprehension Strategies
11:45 am – 12:45 pm   Lunch Break
12:45 – 2:00 pm
Blank Books for Writing across the Curriculum
Literacy Centers
Vocabulary Busters
2:00 – 3:00 pm
Interest Boosters
Brain Breaks
Review and Recall Strategies
*Make and Take
Day Two
8:30 – 10:00 am
Rise and Shine – Songs, Rituals, and Handshakes
Attention Grabbers
Top Ten Management Ideas
Grab Your Partner
Group Learning Activities
10:00 – 10:30 Morning Break
10:30 – 11:45 am
Musical Math
Hands-on Math Materials
Five-Minute Games
11:45 am – 12:45 pm   Lunch Break
12:45 – 2:00 pm
What to Do Instead of a Worksheet
Questioning Strategies
Graphic Organizers
2:00 – 3:00 pm
Simply Science
Review and Recall
Cheers and Celebrations
I promise I'll do my best to make these the two happiest and most meaningful days of your summer!

Saturday, December 19, 2015


All I want for Christmas is for teachers to be respected and given more latitude to do their jobs.

I want “rigor” and “instructional time” to be replaced with joyful learning.

I want the focus on the whole child (social, emotional, physical, and intellectual) instead of test scores and standards.

I want teachers to be able to sing a song, read a book, and play a game just because!

I want parents and administrators to be less critical. Education is not a snap shot, but a video. Step back and take a look at the whole journey.

I want anyone who makes decisions about what children should be expected to do at a particular grade level to have taught that grade. (It’s easy to make lists of what children should be able to do if you’ve never been there!)

I want less emphasis on technology and more on hands-on, interactive learning.

I want teachers and children to be happy.

I want peace on earth.

And I want all of you to find a little JOY this holiday season!

Be blessed!

Yes, that really is me at age 5 and I haven't changed a bit!  My mouth is still wide open!

Friday, December 18, 2015


Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause and this is why I believe. Tuesday I was invited to sing with two pre-k classes at Chicora School in Charleston. Anyone who doesn’t have the Christmas spirit needs to visit some little children this time of year. They filled my heart with JOY!
The children told me that Santa was coming to their school this week. I was a little confused until their teacher, Ali Charen, explained to me:

Every year Ashley Hall, a private school located in downtown Charleston, goes above and beyond to spread Christmas joy at our school, Chicora School of Communications. Parents and students raise countless amounts of money, clothes, and toys to give to our 400+ students. Each student at Chicora receives a Christmas bag, delivered by none other but…SANTA himself! In each bag the students receive items such as uniforms, clothes, pajamas, shoes, socks, underwear, jackets, books, two BIG toys (Barbies, dolls, games, skateboards, balls, etc.), a small toy, and many other things. As a school, we are so grateful for the generosity of the parents, students, and staff at Ashley Hall.

I was so touched I started crying. I’m such a sap that every time I think about the “love” in those bags I get teary eyed again. I know all over the United States wonderful, generous people are making children happy with similar projects.

Yes, Santa Claus and the spirit of Christmas is ALIVE in spite of all the negativity in our world. Shut your door, sing loud, and don’t let Scrooge or the Grinch take away your joy today!
Ali helping Santa fill the bags last Saturday.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


Twas' a few days before the holidays
and all through the room
The children were antsy
and about to go BOOM!
You're trying hard to use that instructional time, 
So let's do some math with a jingle rhyme.

Mingle Jingle
Children tiptoe quietly around the room as they whisper, "Jingle, jingle." When the teacher calls out a number, they must form groups with that amount. Those students who are leftover can do a jumping jack or other silly movement. Continue having the children mingle and jingle and form different sets.

Magic Number
Children stand in a circle and begin counting off. When you get to 25 (Christmas Day) that child must sit down. Continue counting until one child is left.

And here are some ideas to recycle all those advertisements that you've been getting in the mail.

Materials: advertisements from toy stores, grocery stores, or discount stores, paper, pencils, scissors, glue
Write questions similar to those below on a chart. Children fold a sheet of paper into fourths and then write a number in each section. Then they look through the advertisements and cut out an object that answers each question.
1. What costs less than $10.00?
2. What costs more than $100.00?
3. If you had $20 what would you buy for your family?
4. What would you like to buy for yourself? How much does it cost?

Turn the paper over and draw a T-chart. On one side write "wants" and on the other side write "needs." Children cut out pictures (or write words) for things they actually need and things they'd like to have.

Seasonal Shapes
Take a walk around the school and look for different shapes in seasonal objects. Can they find a circle? Triangle? Rectangle? Square? Sphere? Cone? Cube?

*Let them make a shape collage by cutting objects out of advertisements and catalogs.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


I'm sure you're in holiday mode just like me. Bah humbug to standards this week! I'm ready to get this party started!!!

December 18th is "Bake Cookies Day," and no matter where you live or how you celebrate, cookies are an international treat. Even if you can't have food at your school, you'll find a few activities to add a little "sweetness" for your children.

Play Dough – Put cookie cutters and play dough on a cookie sheet. Add a rolling pin (cylinder block), scissors, and plastic utensils.
(Thank you, blog for reminding me about my mother's cookie cutters. They were in the back of a cupboard and I never would have found them if it weren't for you. Now, Kalina and K.J. can make some new memories with them!!)
Paper Ornaments – Put some cookie cutters, scissors, glue, and the scrap box out on a table. Let children trace around the cookie cutters, cut out their paper cookies, and then decorate with stickers or glitter pens. Punch a hole, tie on a string, and decorate the tree.

Graph – What’s your favorite kind of cookie? Do a bar graph and tally the results.

Recipes – Let children write their own “how to make cookies” recipes.

Descriptions – Give each child a cookie and ask them to draw what it looks like. Next, ask them to write 2-5 sentences describing their cookie. Finally, they get to eat the cookie!

What else? Read books or sing songs about cookies…or, just wait until a boring January day to do these things!!

Read, Read, As Fast As You Can! Here’s a cookie bulletin board that I saw last year at a school in Islip, New York. It’d be perfect for when you go back to school in January. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Here are some ideas for your holiday party or any other celebration. They are easy to adapt for any event. For example, instead of playing pin the red nose on Rudolph you could play pin the carrot on Frosty's nose. Rather than using sweet treats you could use pencils, stickers, or another prize.

Pass the Parcel
This is actually a game a student from England taught me. Thus, “parcel” instead of “present.” My students LOVED this! Fill a box with sugarless bubblegum, pencils, small toys, or stickers. There should be enough for everyone in the group. Next, wrap the present over and over again with wrapping paper, tissue paper, or funny pages from the newspaper. Children sit in a circle and begin passing the “parcel” around as music is played. When the music stops that child gets to open one layer on the package. (If the package lands on someone who has already had a turn they pass it on to the person sitting next to them.) Continue the game until the gift is reached. That child then passes out the goodies to the rest of the group.
Hide and Hunt
Children love to hunt for things, so if the weather is nice you can hide jingle bells, snowballs (cotton balls), chocolate gold coins, small toys, etc. on the playground for the children to find. 
*Divide the class in half. Let one group hide the objects for the others to find and then reverse roles.

These won’t really pop, but they are lots of fun to make or give to friends. They can also add a special touch to a special holiday table.

You will need: cardboard rollers, wrapping paper, candy, small toys, curling ribbon
Cut the cardboard rollers into 5” sections. Fill with candy and little toys. Roll in wrapping paper, twist the ends, and tie with curling ribbon.

*This would be a nice gift to make for a nursing home or shelter.

Magic Number
Fill a clear jar or container with candy, cotton balls, or jingle bells. The person who guesses the closest amount is the winner.

Pin the Nose on Rudolph
Draw a reindeer on a poster or chalk board. Cut out red circles and have each child write her name on a circle. Put tape on the back of each circle. One at a time, blindfold each child and spin them around gently three times. Face them towards the reindeer and challenge them to put the nose on Rudolph. Who can get the closest?

Puzzle Pairs
Take old greeting cards and cut them in half like a puzzle. Give each child one half. Have them close their eyes while the other half is hidden in the room. Children tiptoe around the room until they find their matching puzzle piece and sit down.

Pantomime and Name That Tune
Children love to perform, so they always enjoy playing “Guess who I am?” with seasonal objects or toys. They can also take turns humming seasonal songs for their friends to identify.

Word Games
Write a seasonal word on the board. How many words can they create using the letters in the seasonal word?
Hint! Pair children for this activity to enable all children to feel successful.

Holiday Four Corners
You will need four seasonal pictures to tape in each corner of the classroom. For example, a snowman, bell, candy cane, and candle. One child is “it.” “It” hides her eyes and counts to ten as the rest of the class tiptoes to a corner. “It” then calls out one of the objects. The students in that corner are out and must sit in the “stew pot” (center of the room). “It” counts to ten again as the students tiptoe to a new corner. The game continues until one child is left. That child becomes the new “it.”

Monday, December 14, 2015


Here’s an “Emergency Kit” for this week (or any day when things get crazy)!
Calm Down Lotion - You know that drawer full of body lotion you've received as gifts. Take the label off one and print a new one that says "Calm Down Lotion." Give each child a little squirt to rub on their hands and arms to help them relax.
Hint! Lavender and vanilla are suppose to be particularly good for reducing stress.

Tony Chestnut – Have children do "Tony Chestnut" (one of my free youTube videos). As you sing each verse lower your voice until you are whispering.
*Sing the "Alphabet Song" or any song lowering your voice each time. You'll be amazed at how it calms down the class.

Turn off the Lights – Something as simple as turning off the lights can reduce stress and energy. You could also play some quiet music as children enter the classroom.

Take a Deep Breath - Have children pretend to breath in hot chocolate as you slowly count to 8. Blow out the birthday candles as you slowly count to 8. Continue counting slowly as children breath in and out.

The Quiet Game – One child is selected to be “it.” “It” stands in front of the room and says, “Mousie, mousie, how quiet can you be? When I clap my hands 1, 2, 3 (slowly clap 3 times), we shall see!” “It” chooses the classmate who is being the quietest and then that child comes to the front of the room and is the new “it.” (My class LOVED this game. It was a great way to develop self-regulation and calm them down.)

Give Your Mouth a Vacation – Challenge children to “give their mouths a vacation” and practice breathing through their noses. 

Use Your Imagination – Ask the children to close their eyes as you read a story. Challenge them to make “pictures in their brains.” Give them a sheet of paper to illustrate the story.

Make Rain
Hold up your 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.
Clap hands and stomp feet and then reverse the movements.
Clap hands.
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.
*This will really sound like a rainstorm is coming and going. Children will want to do it again and again. Woe be unto the child who does not cooperate with the group!

Sunday, December 13, 2015


Yes, I know today is Sunday, but I wanted to put this little monkey on your back! Is the noise level escalating in your classroom as you near the holidays? Try “Whisper Wednesday” and it will be like a day at the spa. (Well, not exactly, but it will surprise you how soothing it can be.)

Before the children leave Tuesday explain that tomorrow will be “Whisper Wednesday” and that you will only use whisper voices in your classroom all day. (I might make up a little story about an elf telling me to do that because he has such big ears and loud noises really bother him!) Make a sign for your door that says “Welcome to Whisper Wednesday. Please put on your whisper voice before entering today!” Greet the children at the door by whispering, “Good morning! I’m so glad you’re here today!” Sing, talk, read, and whisper through the day.

You might enjoy Whisper Wednesday so much you will want to continue doing it every Wednesday in the New Year.

Saturday, December 12, 2015


How can you tell if children are engaged? All you have to do is watch them as they cut and glue and string beads. Their little tongue will be moving and they will be totally engrossed in the activity. Look around your house today and grab some of these materials to recycle in your classroom this week. You'll be developing small motor skills, and you'll also keep those little hands busy!

Wrapping Paper Tear - Take in scraps of wrapping paper and put them in a tub. Invite children to tear them and then glue them to a paper plate to make a collage.

Cardboard Tubes - Cut cardboard tubes from wrapping paper into 6" sections. Children can decorate them and then use them to hum along to favorite holiday tunes.

Greeting Cards - Cut the front off cards and give children a hole punch. After punching holes they can sew yarn or ribbon through the holes.

Catalogs - YIKES! It breaks my heart to think of all those beautiful trees that went into making those catalogs. Recycle them by integrating a cut and paste activity with skills you want to reinforce.
Letters - Find things with a particular sound.
Shapes - Cut out geometric shapes they find.
Words - Cut out words that they can read.
*Can they find words and make a sentence?

Mystery Jar - Fill a jar with all that little holiday "junk."
*Children can draw what they see.
*Children can make a list of the items.
*Children can write stories using the items as prompts.

Stringing - Put out beads and pipe cleaners and let children design "jewelry."

Scrap Box - Want to keep children focused in a positive direction. Put out a scrap box with construction paper and other art media and challenge them to create gifts for family members.

Friday, December 11, 2015


Tis' the season for crafts!  I realize some early childhood "experts" look down on crafts and  think only open ended art activities should be used.  It’s not an “either-or,” but a “both-and”...IT'S ALL GOOD!   
Here’s a metaphor to explain my point. Sometimes I cook and I just throw stuff in the pot and taste it as I go along. Sometimes I bake and carefully follow the recipe. Open-ended art is like cooking and crafts are like baking. Children need both and should have ample opportunities to create and build. Here are some specific benefits from doing crafts:

1st Children like them. Why do you think all those rainbow looms were so successful a few years ago? Children have a sense of accomplishment when they do a craft.

2nd Children learn to follow directions and do things in a sequential order.

3rd Task initiation and task completion (important characteristics of the executive function) are nurtured with crafts.

4th Crafts provide children with the opportunity to plan and problem solve.

5th Crafts can be integrated with content areas and units of study.

6th Crafts can develop small motor skills, social skills, and independence.

In my opinion, most activities where children do things with their hands and where they interact socially is wonderful!  TURN IT OFF and let's just get messy and have some FUN!!!

Come back tomorrow for some center ideas that are "crafty" and open-ended.

Thursday, December 10, 2015


Are you going crazy right now? Well, here's a new video that might help you destress and laugh with your students. When I was about to lose it I would sit down in a chair and slowly start singing this song. The first time I did it my students looked shocked and were speechless! They quickly realized Mrs. Feldman was just being silly and we ended up laughing together. After that when things got a little tense in the classroom I would sing this song and they would join in, relax, and smile!

I Am Slowly Going Crazy
(Tune: "Reuben, Reuben, I’ve Been Thinking")
I am slowly going crazy, (Cross right ankle on left knee. Place right
elbow on right knee and place chin on palm.)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, switch. (Cross left ankle on right knee and place
chin on left palm.)
Crazy going slowly am I, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, switch.
Continue singing faster and faster.

*Brainstorm other things you can do when you feel like you’re going crazy!

*Make a class book of “Things That Drive Us Crazy!”

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


You’ve got to love the climate in Northern California, and you’ve got to LOVE the teachers there! Last week when I was in Sacramento we started brainstorming different ways to use sign language in the classroom. I’ve always promoted sign language because it’s engaging, multi-sensory, and it’s FREE! Take a look at these ideas and I bet you’ll come up with at least one or two new ways to integrate sign language in your classroom.

Twinkle Signs (Cary Ehrlich)
Use alphabet cards with pictures and sing the letter name, then the sound, then the picture to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Demonstrate the sign as you sing each letter.
A /a/ apple
B /b/ bear

Brown Bear, Brown Bear (Nancy Heffley)
Begin with signing only color words as you repeat the chant from Brown Bear.
Later in the year add signs for animals.
Eventually children will be able to recite the story from beginning to end while signing it.

*Another advantage to teaching children sign language is that it integrates both hemispheres of the brain.

Sight Word Cues (Tim Walker)
Teach students the sign for each sight word to help them scaffold and make the connection.

As you introduce new vocabulary words, learn to sign them by using the dictionary on

Spelling Words (Vanessa Ortiz)
One student signs each letter in a word. (Sight words, color words, CVC words, names, etc.) The other student says the word being spelled.
*If they are still learning their letters one student shows a letter and the other student signs it.

“Handy” (pun intended) Signs (Julie Dushane)
Teach children signs for “tissue,” “bathroom,” etc. to cut down on verbal disruptions during listening or story time. Children sign their need and the teacher can give a nod for permission.

Transitions (Vonda Mellott)
While waiting in the hallway use a “silent voice” (make and say the letter with the mouth, but no sound) as you make the letter signs.
*You can also whisper the sound as you make the letter.
“A says /a/ /a/ /a/ B says /b/ /b/ /b/…”

Introductions (Autumn Carey)
Let students introduce themselves to each other using the first letter of their name. “My name is Autumn (sign “a”). How are you?”

Calendar Time (Bonnie Napton)
Use sign language for the days of the week and the months of the year as you sing calendar songs.
*Also use sign language to introduce the letter of the week and sing alphabet songs.

Thumbs Up (Cheryll Gatewood)
During class meeting the students put up a thumb if they want to share news. We respond with sign language after news is shared so there isn’t any calling out during sharing time.

Morning Sing (Devon Davis)
We use sign language during our K-3rd grade morning sing program held on Monday and Wednesday. It engages the children and helps kids connect with the song’s language/words.

I’m Proud to Be an American (Mariposa Elementary)
For Veteran’s Day the entire student body sings and signs “I’m Proud to Be an American.” It is amazing! Representatives from the local and state level are there or send someone on their behalf.

Sign Language Telephone Game (Jeneva Smith)
Play the “telephone” game, but instead of saying it, sign it. Line everyone up facing forward so they are not looking at each other. The first person taps person number 2 on the shoulder and signs something. (Make sure the people further along the line don’t see.) Person number 2 signs to person number 3 and it keeps going. When the sign gets to the last person see how much it has changed.
*You can also play this game by drawing on each other’s backs.

Feeling Fine in Line (Brian Saloo)
My eyes are open wide. (Hands by eyes with fingers spread.)
My hands are by my side. (Pat hips.)
I’m feeling fine. (Thumbs pointing at self.)
Cause I’m standing in a line. (Sing standing by putting fingers on palm.)

Part II: Cause I’m walking in a line. (Walk fingers on palm.)

Thank You Cards (Terri Miller)
Take a photo of children signing “thank you.” Send the photo card to parents, volunteers, etc.

Here are a few more ideas the teachers shared last week.

Stinky Feet (Vonda Mellott)
Use number cards (or other flash cards) and draw a foot shape on several of them. When the foot appears the children pinch their noses and say, “Ooo! Stinky feet!”
*Adapt this game for seasonal fun.

December – add bells and sing, “Jingle bells, jingle bells…”
January – add snowflakes and sing, “Let it snow, let it snow…”
February – add hearts and say, “Be my valentine.”
Spring – use flower pictures and say, “Aw, so sweet!”

Peace and Quiet (Carol Serna)
To quiet the class hold both hands above your shoulders (like Winston Churchill) and make the “V” sign. Children “sign” it back to the teacher and are quiet.

Friendly Five (Jennifer Mattson)
When teaching tally marks explain that “5” is the “friendly five” because it gives the other four a hug.

Brain Yoga (Aimee Peterson)
Brain yoga is a powerful way to energize your brain. Check it out!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


You know I love blank books because you can use them across the curriculum or with any grade level. They are open-ended to provide a challenge for all your students, and they are way better than a worksheet. Here's a video that K.J. (grandson) made last summer of me making the house book.
Directions:  Fold the paper in half lengthwise to form a crease. Open. Bring upper left corner to the center crease. Bring upper right corner to the center crease. Fold up the bottom edge to make a house.

Use for: my family (how we celebrate, have fun, etc.)

             book report (title, author, illustrator, favorite scene)
             colors, letters, shapes, number words
             word families  (write the rime on the front and words inside)
             following directions (make a door on the front of the house; put a bird on the  
             roof; put a trash can on the back of the house, etc.)
             animal homes
             NAPPING HOUSE – recall characters
             number house  (write the number on the front and different ways to make the
             number inside)
             homework – write words in their house they can read