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Sunday, January 31, 2016


STEAM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics. STEAM PROGRAMS are designed to integrate science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics in the classroom to encourage students to think critically and problem solve in a creative way.

Although some might think that science and math are the opposite art, both involve a “process” and a “product.” Both require students to think creatively and critically. STEAM is also complimentary to the 4 C’s of 21st Century Skills: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication.

After over 4 decades as an educator, I see shadows of the integrated curriculum, constructivism, as well as the project approach in STEAM. I also see STEAM as providing a balance to our obsession with skills and standardized tests.

Take a look at some of the projects below. Couldn’t you use one of these instead of a test or worksheet to extend a story or a unit of study? These projects would also provide children with the opportunity to collaborate with a partner or small group.
Class quilt
Puppets (stick, paper bag, paper plate, sock, coat hanger, envelope)
Sculpture (mold with clay or play dough)
Create a board game
Poster or collage
Mobile or windsock
Mini Museum
Class chef

Skit or play
Role play
Pantomime and charades
Rap or song
Mask or costume         


Saturday, January 30, 2016


Abraham Lincoln was my father's favorite President. I mean, who wouldn't fall in love with a guy born in a log cabin who had to walk miles to school in the snow? As an adult, the more I learned about Lincoln, the more my heart ached for the tragic personal life this great leader endured. As with many, he has received increased love and respect since his passing.

Abraham Lincoln
(Tune: “Pop Goes the Weasel”)
Abraham Lincoln, past President, (Point to a picture of Lincoln.)
Loved and honored by many.
To help us remember this famous man,
We put his face on a penny.
Hold a penny in your hand (Hold up a penny.)
And his face you’ll see.
He always tried to tell the truth.
He’s Honest Abe to me.

*Download the book to go with the song at

Log Cabin Snack – Give children pretzel twist sticks and a spoonful of peanut butter or cream cheese. Children try to build a log cabin by stacking the pretzels with the peanut butter.

*Use cream cheese if there are peanut allergies in your classroom.

Penny Inspection – Let children look at pennies with a magnifying glass.  How are the pennies alike?  How are they different?  Encourage children to describe the different scenes on the pennies.

Rubbings – Make rubbings of pennies.

Penny, Penny – Three children leave the classroom. The other children cup their hands as if holding a penny. The teacher hides the penny in one child’s hand. When the three children return to the room, they walk around the room and open their friends’ hands. The first one to find the penny gets to choose 3 new friends to leave the room and she gets to hide the penny.

Time Line – Give children a sentence strip. At the left write the year they were born. Write each additional year up until the present. Children take the time line home and try to find a penny with each year’s date.
Did you know?  If you look closely at pennies minted from 1959 to 2008 you can see Lincoln's statue in the Memorial.

In 2009 they introduced four new designs celebrating the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth year.

Birth in Kentucky               Formative Years in Indiana

Professional Life in Illinois        Presidency in DC

In 2010 the shield design was coined.

Friday, January 29, 2016


Teaching children how to make cards is the perfect way to integrate writing and art. You’ve heard the saying, “If you give a child a hammer she will find a million things to hammer.” If you teach children how to make a simple card they will want to make birthday cards, get well cards, thank you cards, invitations…. Put out the paper, markers, crayons, and scrap box and let them explore. 

Hint!  If your school doesn't celebrate Valentine's Day this provides another opportunity for children to make notes for friends and family members.

Basic Card
As simple as it seems to you, many children don’t know how to make a basic card. Demonstrate and then guide them to fold a sheet of paper (white paper or construction paper) in half and then into fourths as shown. Explain that they can write on the card or illustrate it with markers and crayons. Remind them to be sure and sign their name!

Hint! Kids really love envelopes, so if you go by a copy center they may donate envelopes that have been misprinted.
Children will also enjoy doing "fancy writing" on their cards where they put small dots on the end lines of letters.

Pop Up Card
This one is a little more complicated. (I usually cut construction paper in half to make this card.) Fold the paper in half. Cut two 1 ½” slits from the center fold as shown. Take that center tab and fold it inside. When you open the card it will pop up. Show the children how to write on the front of the card and then glue a separate graphic to the pop up tab.


Thursday, January 28, 2016


This is a simple Valentine gift that parents will treasure.  Let children wrap a small box or a piece of Styrofoam with wrapping paper and a ribbon.  (It would be extra special if the children designed their own wrapping paper.) Add this note:
            Here is a little gift
            That you can never see.            
            The reason it’s so special,
            It’s just for you from me.
            Whenever you are lonely,
            Or even feeling blue,
            You only have to hold this box
            And know I think of you.
            Please never unwrap it,
            And leave the ribbon tied.
            Just hold the box close to your heart,
           It’s filled with love inside.

Here’s one of my favorite cards you can make from a flip book. Fold a sheet of paper in half lengthwise (hotdog). Fold in half again (hamburger). Fold again (juice box). Open and cut down three creased lines to the center fold as shown. Fold in half to make little flips you can lift up.

Draw packages as shown and write the following:
     Some gifts are round.
     Some gifts are tall.
     Some gifts are large.
     Some gifts are small.
Open and write:
     But a gift from the heart is the best gift of all.
*Glue the child’s photo or let them draw their picture on the inside.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


King Kong (The more dramatic you are, the better the kids will like it and get engaged!  Say “King Kong” in a loud deep voice & “teeny tiny monkey” in a squeaky little voice.)
         KING KONG (Flex arms.)
         Was just a teeny tiny monkey (Hold up pinky.)
         Compared to my love for you. (Cross arms over chest and then extend.)
         KING KONG (Flex arms.)
         Was just a teeny tiny monkey (Hold up pinky.)
         Compared to my love for you. (Cross arms over chest and then extend.)
         I love you day (Make circle with arms.)
         And night. (Lay head on hands.)
         My love is out of sight. (Hands in air.)
         KING KONG (Flex arms.)
         Was just a teeny
         Tiny monkey (Hold up pinky.)
         Compared to my love for you! (Softly say this line as you point to children.)

Will You Be My Valentine?
(Tune: “Do You Know the Muffin Man?”)
Will you be my Valentine, (Point to various friends.)
Valentine, Valentine?
Will you be my Valentine?
I’ll be yours if you’ll be mine! (Point to self and then a friend.)

Some are red, some are blue, (Hold up fingers.)
Some have lace and ribbons, too.
Some are funny, some are not. (Smile and then shake head “no.”)
I like the candy ones a lot.
*Download this book at

Chocolate Play Dough – Make play dough using your favorite recipe. Omit the food coloring and let the children knead the dough in cocoa. It will look and smell like chocolate. Purchase a box of valentine candies and remove/eat the candies. Children can roll up the dough and put them in the paper containers.

Valentine Sandwich – You will need a heart shaped cookie cutter, bread, cream cheese, and red food coloring to make this sandwich. Mix the cream cheese with red food coloring until it is pink. Cut a heart out of the bread with the cookie cutter. Spread on the cream cheese.

Love Is… Do a language experience chart where each child completes the sentence, “Love is…” You could also make a class book where each child completes the sentence “Love is…” and draws things that she loves.

Predictable Books – Have children make blank books using one of these titles: Love is… I love… Happiness is… A friend is… My favorite things to love… Things I love from A to Z.

Heart Critters – Give children several choices of hearts in different colors. Children glue them on a sheet of paper and add details with markers to make imaginary critters. Ask them to think of a name for their critter.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Note: If you are at a school that doesn’t observe holidays, you can easily adapt these ideas for writing or math standards.

Special Delivery 
You will need a large paper grocery sack and envelopes for this game. Cut the top half off the grocery sack and write “Special Delivery” on it. Cut a paper strip 2” by 15” and 
staple it to the bag to make a handle. Write each child’s name on an envelope and place it in the mailbag. One child is “it” and skips around the room as you sing the song below. At the end of the song, “it” reaches in the bag and chooses an envelope. “It” delivers the envelope to that child and they exchange places. The game continues until each child has had a turn and received an envelope. 

A Letter Is on Its Way (Tune: “The Farmer in the Dell”) 
A letter's on its way.                                             
A letter's on its way.
I’ll give it to my friend
For Valentine’s Day.

Five Little Cookies 
(Hold up 5 fingers to begin.)
Down around the corner at the bakery shop
Five little cookies with sprinkles on top.
Along came (child’s name) with a penny one day.
He/she bought one cookie and ate it right away!
*Make cookies out of felt or fun foam. Pass out pennies to five children have them exchange their penny for a cookie when their name is called.
(I used puff fabric paint to make my sprinkles.)

Sweet Smelling Play Dough
1 cup flour
½ cup salt
1 package unsweetened strawberry Kool-Aid
2 T. vegetable oil
1 cup boiling water
Stir and knead all ingredients well. Store in a zip bag.
*Use other flavors of Kool-Aid to tie in with themes and seasons. For example, lime for St. Patrick’s Day, orange for Halloween, etc.
*Children will also be thrilled with surprise dough balls. Prepare the dough mixture omitting the Kool-Aid. Make small balls from the dough and stick your finger in the middle of each ball to make a hole. Sprinkle the Kool-Aid in the hole and seal. As children squeeze the dough – SURPRISE – a color will appear!

Heart Puzzle
Cut 4" circles out of red paper. Cut 4" squares out of red paper. Give each child a circle and a square. Demonstrate how to fold the circle in half and cut on the crease to make two half circles (aka semi-circles). Can the children make a heart from the two halves and the square? 

Valentine Concentration
Cut 4” squares out of red poster board. You will also need children’s valentines (2 of each) to glue on the squares. Have children place the squares face down on the carpeting. Play a memory game where children turn over two squares at a time and try to match up like valentines. (Valentine stickers can be used to make a similar game on 3” squares.)

Monday, January 25, 2016


Come to think of it, conversation hearts were the beginning of text talk. According to a little research on the web, “Sweetheart” candies have been around since 1901. In the past decade the sayings have been updated with phrases such as “TEXT Me” and “LOL.” Although over 100 years old, it’s good to see these little candies alive and well. Here are some adaptations for using them as a springboard for learning.

Conversation Hearts – Conversation hearts are good to sort, count, read, and eat!
*Estimate how many will be in a bag. Count. Graph the ones that are the same.
Note! Remind children that the hearts you use for games in the classroom are NOT to eat because they will have lots of germs. They will get some special ones they can eat at the Valentine party.

*Make a game by cutting paper hearts out of construction paper. Write like phrases found on candy hearts (such as “Kiss Me, “Cool One,” “WOW!” “Cutie Pie”) on two of the 
hearts. Glue one to a file folder and then have children match and read the ones that go together.
*Glue paper hearts with phrases to 3” squares to make a memory game.

*Give children blank hearts and challenge them to think of their own phrases they would 

put on the candies.
*Let children make their own paper hearts, hole punch them, and then string them to make a necklace. (WOW! Trace, write, hole punch, and string - lots of small motor 

Bringing Home a Valentine
(Tune: “Baby Bumblebee”)
I’m bringing home a valentine for you, (Cup hands and move them to
One that says, “I love you.” the beat in front of your body.)
I’m bringing home a valentine for you
With a great big hug, and a (kiss) (kiss), too! (Hug self and then kiss
              in the air.)
*Download this book to go with the song at

Valentine for Parents 
- Let each child take off one shoe and trace around her foot on white paper. Cut it out. Give each child 5 small pieces of red tissue paper to wad up and glue at the end of each toe for toenails. Write “I love you from my head down to my toes” on the foot.

Mouse Bookmark – Cut a heart about the size of a child’s hand from red construction paper.  Fold in half. Open. Tape a 6” piece of string in the middle. Glue closed. Draw a nose, whiskers, and ears on the heart as shown to make it look like a mouse. Use for a bookmark.

Sunday, January 24, 2016


Blah, blah, blah to rigor and instructional time! All children deserve a little fun and play at the end of the week. Here’s the “Friday Dance” and a few suggestions to give your students something to look forward to this week.

The Friday Dance (Tune: “Coming Round the Mountain”)
Come on everybody, take a chance. (Step back and clap your hands.)
It’s time to do the Friday dance.
Get up on your feet.
Clap and get beat!
Let’s all do the Friday dance.
It’s Friday! It’s Friday! It’s Friday! Yeah! (Hands in the air and
dance around.)

Friday Free Time
The last 15 minutes on Friday let the kids take off their shoes and do whatever they want!

Sit Where You Want
Friday afternoon let children switch places and sit wherever they want Friday afternoon.

Chew and Write
To encourage writing about what they learned during the week give each student sugar free gum to chew. They can chew the gum as long as they are writing.

Get together with another class or all the children on your grade level and sing! A different class could be in charge of this event every week.

Game Day
Let children bring board games (NOT video games) from home on Friday and play with their friends the last 30 minutes of the day.
*Invite parent volunteers or an older class to help with the games.
*Set up 4 or 5 different games, divide students into groups, and then let them rotate every 15 minutes to a different game.

Dress Up
We always looked forward to dress up days. Pajama parties, beach day (Yes, in January!), what I want to be when I grow up, hat day, sports day, and silly sock day are just a few ideas.
*You can always tie these into standards by having children dress up like a favorite book character or a hero.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


Well, it won't be long until the groundhog makes his appearances and we'll know if spring will be early this year.  El Nino has been playing weather games all over the United States, so who knows????
Groundhog Day – February 2nd 

(Tune: “Say, Say, My Playmate” Happy Everything CD)
February 2nd, (Hold up 2 fingers.)
Is Groundhog Day.
Gather round his hole (Make circular motion.)
To hear what he’ll say. (Place hand by ear.)
Will spring be early
Or late this year?
Watch and listen
To what you’ll hear.

If he sticks his head out (Make a hole with one hand.)
On a sunny day (Stick the index finger from the other hand
His shadow will frighten him up through the hole and wiggle.)
And he will say,
“I’ll go back in my hole (Tuck finger in your fist.)
And go back to sleep.
You’ll have winter
For six more weeks.”

If he sticks his head out (Make a hole with fist and stick up finger.)
On a cloudy day
He’s not frightened
So he will say, (Wiggle finger.)
“I think I’ll stay out
And the weather should clear.
Spring will be here
Early this year.”

*You can download the book at

Cup Puppet – Let children draw a groundhog or download one 
off the internet.   Staple to a straw. Punch a hole in the bottom of a paper cup and insert the straw in the cup. Raise and lower the groundhog as appropriate in the song.

Sidewalk Shadows – Go outside on a sunny day and have children stand with their backs to the sun. Let them make silly motions and play “Guess what I am?” Give them chalk and let them trace around each other’s shadows.
*Draw shadows at 10, 12, and 2 and compare.

*Play shadow tag where they try to touch each other's shadows.

Where’s the Groundhog? – Cut twenty 4” squares out of heavy paper. Write high frequency words, math facts, letters, etc. on the cards. Make a copy of the attached groundhog. Have the children sit on the floor in a circle. Mix up the cards and place them face up on the floor. Identify the word (etc.) on each card as you place it down on the floor. Tell the children to turn around. Hide the groundhog under one of the squares. Children turn back around and try and guess where the groundhog is hiding. One at a time children call out a word and then “peek” to see if the groundhog is under it. The first child to find the groundhog gets to have a turn hiding it. The game continues as children hide the groundhog and then try to discover his whereabouts.

Dramatize - Invite children to dramatize the groundhog peeping out of his hole. What if it's sunny? What if it's cloudy?

Note! Visit for more great ideas!

Friday, January 22, 2016


A mnemonic device helps you recall how to spell a word or how to remember a string of words or a phrase that stands for more complicated information. I can remember my fourth grade teacher standing at the board saying, “My father taught me how to spell geography by saying George Elliott’s Oldest Girl Rode A Pig Home Yesterday.” Some days I can’t remember my phone number, but I’ll never forget how to spell geography! I’m sure all of you have a similar experience and can attest to the power of these clever tricks.

Homes – The Great Lakes are Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.

Planets – My (Mars) very (Venus) eager (Earth) mother (Mars) just (Jupiter), served (Saturn) us (Uranus) noodles (Neptune).

Roy G. Biv – He’s your friend when it comes to the color spectrum.
Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

DirectionsNever Eat Soggy Weenies (or Sour Watermelon)

Spelling BECAUSE - Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants
Continents – Eat (Europe) an (Antarctica) aspirin (Asia) after (Africa) a (Australia) nutty (North America) Sandwich (South America).

Months of the Year
Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November.
All the rest have thirty-one excepting February alone;
Which hath but twenty-eight, in fine, till leap year gives it twenty-nine.
*Hold up knuckles on both hands. Point to the knuckles as you name the months. The months with 31 days will be the tall knuckles and the months with 23 or 30 days will be the lower spots in between.

Multiplication by Nine – Hold up ten fingers.
1 x 9 (One - put down left pinky and nine ones will be left.)
2 x 9 (Two – put down second finger/left pinky and you’ll have 1 ten and 8 ones.)
3 x 9 (Three – third finger down for two tens and seven ones.)
4 x 9 (Four – fourth finger down for three tens and six ones.)
5 x 9 (Thumb down for four tens and five ones.)
6 x 9 (Right thumb down for five tens and four ones.)
7 x 9 (Right pinky down for six tens and three ones.)
8 x 9 (Right middle finger down for seven tens and two ones.)
9 x 9 (Right ring finger down for eight tens and one.)

Do you have any mnemonic devices tucked away in your brain? I’d love to hear about them.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


This book is a little more complicated than some of my books, but it's perfect when you want your students to "publish" something special they have written. I've made this book with children as young as five, but it always works best to do it with a small group. That way you can help them with the folds and the more difficult steps.

Materials: construction paper, white copy, scissors, glue stick

Directions: Fold one sheet of paper in half. (That's your taco.)  Cut off the creased edge about 1 1/2" from the top and the bottom of the fold.

Now, take 2-5 additional sheets of paper (you can vary this for the number of pages you want in your book).  Fold them in half. Cut down 1 1/2” from the top and bottom of the crease.
Roll up lengthwise like a burrito and insert in the hole you cut out of the taco. Unroll, fold in half, and you’ll have a book. 

Finally, take a sheet of construction paper and fold it in half. Glue all over the inside of the construction paper and then insert your book and rub.
Use this book for: 
     edited stories
     note taking
     science or social studies reports

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


You can even use blocks to enhance science and social studies!

Life Cycle – Cut out pictures of the life cycle of a butterfly, frog, pumpkin, etc. and tape them to blocks. Children order the blocks and then orally tell a story.

Animal Families – Cut out pictures of mother animals and tape them to blocks. Tape pictures of baby animals to other blocks. Can children match them up?
You could also make a game where children match animals and their homes.

Solar System – Write “SUN” on a paper plate. Write the planets in the solar system on paper and tape to blocks. Children order the planets from the sun out.

Layers of Rain Forest – Write the layers of the rain forest or deciduous forest on paper and tape to blocks. Can children build the layers? Can they illustrate the layers and label them?

Habitats – Use blocks to create different animal habitats. Provide plastic animals and vegetation or let children make their own from play dough or art media.

Maps – Use blocks to create maps of the classroom, school, neighborhood, or community.
Community Helpers – Draw community helpers and tape to cylinder blocks. Create work spaces for different community helpers from blocks.

Homes – Cut out pictures of homes from different parts of the world and encourage children to replicate them with blocks. Encourage children to think about different building materials used and how homes reflect their habitat.

Tower Topple – This is a game children can play by themselves or in a group. First child places a block on the floor. Second child places a block on top of the first block. Third child selects another block and places it on top of the first two. The game continues as they try to build as high as they can before the tower topples.
*Hint! Encourage them to estimate how many blocks they can stack. Did they do more or less?

Copy Cat – Children work with a partner for this activity. One child builds something using blocks while the second child observes. The second child then tries to reproduce what the first child built. Exchange roles.
Hint! You might want to limit them to 5-10 blocks.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Children need hands-on experiences with concrete objects like blocks in order to develop math concepts.

Sorting – Can they sort like blocks together? Can they regroup the blocks by another attribute?

Numerical Order – Write numerals 0-10 on 2 ½” x 5” pieces of paper and attach to blocks. Can they put the blocks in order?

Sets and Numerals – Write numerals, number words, and sets on blocks for children to match.  
Roll and Stack – Children take one or two dice and roll. They select that number of blocks and stack them as tall as they can.                                            
Counting – How many blocks can you stack?

Math Signs – Write inequality signs, =, +, and – on pieces of paper and attach to blocks. Children can build equations and practice addition and subtraction with the numeral blocks and signs.

Liquid Measurement – Write “cup” on two square blocks. Write “pint” on a rectangular block. How many cups in a pint?
Fractions – What would happen if you cut the square block in half? What would happen if you cut the rectangular block in half? How many ways can you make the square block? Rectangular block?

Measure Up – Children lay on the floor as friends take unit blocks and measure how many blocks long they are. Use different size blocks and compare.

Graphing – Have children draw their faces on 2 ½”” squares. Tape to blocks. Use for comparing and graphing.
For example: You could have a picture of a bus, feet, and a car. Children place their block under the way they travel to school. Which one is more? Less? How can we tell for sure?
Block Book – Cut small shapes out of construction paper to represent the different unit blocks. Glue these to a file folder to make structures similar to the ones shown. Hole punch to create a book. Children look at the drawings and then try to duplicate them with blocks.