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Saturday, April 30, 2016


Bugs are everywhere this time of year and children are fascinated by these little critters. Here’s a simple song to sing to the tune of “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” where children can learn the basic body parts of insects.

Head (Point to head.)
Thorax (Point to chest.)
Abdomen – abdomen! (Point to stomach.)
Head, thorax, abdomen – abdomen!
And eyes (Point to eyes.)
And mouth (Point to mouth.)
And antennae, two (Stick 2 fingers up.)
Six legs (Wiggle 3 fingers on each hand.)
And there’s an insect for you!
(Leave off a verse each time you sing and hum.)

Bug Hunt – Give children pipe cleaners that they can twist into a magnifying glass shape. Let them use these to hunt for bugs on the playground.
*They could also use clipboards to draw insects that they find outside.
Entomologist – Explain that an entomologist is a person who studies insects. Brainstorm different ways that they can study insects, such as checking out books at the library, looking on the internet, and so forth.

Roll a Bug – Remember the old game “Cooty Bug”? Here’s a similar game your children can play where they roll the dice to make their own bugs.

So, have I sparked your interest in insects or just “bugged” you? Carolyn Kisloski ( and I have created a unit called “Bugs and Insects.” There are 40 pages (QR Codes, Prezis, children's books, writing prompts) of hands-on activities and games that will help you STEAM ahead.

Where did April go? Can you believe tomorrow is May 1st? Carolyn and I have a BIG, FREE, FANTASTIC surprise for you tomorrow. Hurry back!

Friday, April 29, 2016


Some of you only have a few days left of school, but some of you have weeks to go.  The end of the school year should be like "dessert" with lots of sweet memories.  Finish those tests and let's party and celebrate with one of these special days!

Sports Day – Enjoy the warm weather with a “Sports Day.”  Children can wear t-shirts and hats from their favorite teams.  Let them bring sports equipment to share with friends on the playground.

Beach Party – Bring beach towels and wear sunglasses, shorts, and bathing suits.  Set up sprinklers or other water activities on the playground.  Play beach ball games, beach music, and have a “cool” snack like popsicles. 

Book Party – Encourage children to dress up like their favorite book character.  Play “Guess Who I Am?” or have children describe why they like a particular character.  Let them bring favorite reading material (books, magazines) from home and sit or lay wherever they want for independent reading.

Talent Show - One of my favorite memories is of a Talent Show we had at the end of the school year.  I just invited all the children to think of a “talent” (song, dance, story, gymnastic stunt) they could do.  We sat in a circle and they all got up and performed!  We clapped and laughed and cheered!

Pajama Party – Have children wear pajamas and bring pillows and stuffed animals to class.  Read books, watch a movie, and eat popcorn.

Career Day – Children come dressed for the career they’d like when they grow up.  After sharing with friends, have each child draw a picture (or take a photograph) and make a class book.

Luau – Make grass skirts from draw string garbage bags.  Cut straws in 1” pieces and alternate stringing with paper flowers on dental floss to create a lei.  Hula, surf, and eat pineapple fruit kabobs for snack.

Toy Day – Children bring a favorite toy from home and share with their friends.

Wash Day – Wear old clothes and bring sponges, pails, and squirt bottles.  Let children wash tables, desks, toys, etc.  (You could tie this in with a water play day.)

Teddy Bear Parade – Children bring in a teddy bear or stuffed animal and parade around the classroom.  Have them write stories and draw pictures of what they like to do with their bear.  Have a “tea party” with your bears.

Board Game Day – Let children bring board games from home.  Set aside the last hour in the day to share games and play with friends.

Take a Vacation
Carrie Tibetts shared this brilliant idea last week when I was in Austin.  First, children get to choose a "vacation location."  This is any special place they like in the classroom.  If a child needs a break they can "take a vacation" and go to their quiet spot.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


You will need a pocket folder for each child for this summer writing activity. Remind the children what wonderful writers they have become and how important it is for them to keep writing over the summer. Explain that many famous writers started keeping diaries and journals just like them when they were young. Motivate them to make their own “Summer Fun Journal” so they can record all the special things they will be doing over the summer.  
Provide the children with markers, crayons, construction paper, and other art media to decorate the front of their pocket folders. (You might suggest they title it “Summer Fun.”) Run off copies with the attached writing prompts or create your own based on the interests of your students. You might even want to ask your class to brainstorm topics for these journals.

Hint! Be sure and include some blank paper at the end.

*Encourage students to add photos, brochures, or other special keepsakes.

*Add a line for the date on each page.

*Tell your students you’d love to see their journals when the come back for the new school year.

*For younger children encourage parents to have their children illustrate the topic and then dictate sentences for their parents to write.

Here are some summer writing prompts.

I like summer because

My favorite book is

This is one of my chores

My family is going

This is what I like to do outside

These are my favorite summer foods

My goal for this summer is

These are my friends

I wish

When it’s hot I

These are games I like to play

This is what I like to wear in the summer

This is my favorite place to play

These are my favorite toys

My worst day ever

My best day ever

I can’t wait for school to start because

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Reading is like anything else.  The more you do it, the better you will become.  Here are a few ideas to get children started on a summer reading adventure.

Library Card – What better gift can you give your students at the end of the year than a library card?  Take a field trip to your local library or ask the children’s librarian to visit your school and describe all their summer reading activities.

Summer Reading List – It’s easy to do an internet search and find a suggested reading list for your grade level.  Parents would probably appreciate this when helping their child choose books to read over the summer.
Postcards – Cut card stock the size of a postcard.  Let children decorate one side with markers or crayons.  On the reverse side draw a line down the middle.  Have the children write the teacher’s name on one half.  Explain that if they send you the postcard over the summer and write you a note that you will write back to them.
*You could also give the children a pre-stamped envelope addressed to you.
Explain that whenever they write you, you will write them back.

Journals - Make travel brochures for children to write in over the summer.

Top Ten – Have each child make a list of ten things they would like to do over the summer. (Younger children could dictate five things they would like to do.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Last weekend was WONDERFUL in WINONA, MN!  What a beautiful town amongst Minnesota's lakes, and what incredible teachers!!!

I will always treasure the beautiful quilt that Nancy Nelson made me!

As summer approaches, I know you’re brainstorming ways to encourage children to read, write, and practice skills over their summer vacation. Here are three projects that may encourage your students to continue to practice sight words.

Note! You can adapt these activities to letters, math facts, or other skills you want the children to master.

Treasure Boxes for Lifetime Words
Ask parents to send in empty mint cans. Cut paper into 1 ¾” by 3” rectangles. Have children write sight words on these rectangles and store them their containers.
Hint! Explain that lifetime words are words you will need to be able to read all your life. They are like a “treasure” because they will belong to you forever!!!

Word Wallet
Make wallets from construction paper. Lay the paper horizontally and fold up the bottom to 1” from the top. Fold in half. Glue the sides. Decorate with markers and stickers. Cut green paper into rectangles 4” x 2.” These are your “dollars” for your wallet. Children can write their words on the dollars and “save” them in their wallets.
Word Pockets
Seal envelopes and cut in half. Cut down 1” from each side and fold down the flap as shown. Punch holes in the sides and tie on a piece of string or yarn. Give children strips of paper cut 2 1/2” x 4” on which to write their sight words. Students can take the words home in their little pockets for summertime practice.

How about some games parents and children can play with the flashcards?

Hide and Seek
Hide the words around the room. Children find them one at a time, bring them to you, and read them.

Sentence Makers
Children choose a word and use it in a sentence.

*Older students could write a sentence.

Sidewalk Words
Children practice writing words with chalk on the sidewalk.

Sort the Words
Put all the one letter words together, two letter words, three letter words, and so forth.
Sort the nouns and verbs.
Sort the words by syllables.

Can You Find?
Can you find the words in a book? Can you find them printed on food labels or other things around the house? is a website I'd definitely recommend to parents.  It's a good free resource for games and activities based on grade level expectations.

Monday, April 25, 2016


Just kidding! Here are a few ideas to help children calm down when they are over excited. Many of you are testing now, and these activities might be good to help them focus before the test or they could be used as a break in between tests.

Deep Breathing – Inhale slowly as you count to 8. Exhale slowly as you count backwards from 8 to 1. Breath in hot chocolate. Breath out and blow the candles out on a birthday cake.  

Tighten~Relax – Tighten up your body as tight as you can and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Then relax and let it all go. Repeat several times.
*Starting with the toes, call out one body part at a time for children to squeeze and then relax. For example, toes, feet, knees, legs, hips, back, fingers, arms, shoulders, necks, faces, and then a whole body SQUEEZE!

Rag Dolls and Soldiers – When the teacher calls out “rag dolls” everyone flops over like a rag doll. When the teacher says, “soldiers,” everyone stands up tall and stiff. Continue calling out “rag dolls” and “soldiers” faster and faster.
“Eye” Exercise - Demonstrate how to hold your two index fingers a few inches from your eyes on either side of your head. Look at the right index finger with both eyes and then look at the left index finger.
Balancing Act – Ask children to stand. How long can they balance on their right foot? How long can they balance on their left foot? Can they balance on their right toes? Left toes? Can they balance on their right foot and extend their left leg in the air? Can they balance on one foot with their eyes closed?
Hint! Classical music is lovely for balancing activities.
Vacation – Tell your class to give their mouth and their eyes a “vacation” by closing their eyes and mouths. Next, ask them to practice breathing through their noses. You’ll be amazed at how this brings down their energy level and helps them focus.

Lip Sinc – Make motions as you mouth the words to finger plays and songs. Invite children to join you when they recognize what you are doing.

Hint!  Those "finger neurobics" that K.J. demonstrated on my blog on March 29th would also be an excellent way to calm children.

Sunday, April 24, 2016


Mother's Day is two weeks from today, so let's start making memories with one of these ideas.

A Box for Mommy (Tune: "Polly Wolly Doodle" - HAPPY EVERYTHING CD)
I wish I had a little box (Pretend to hold a box in your hands.)
To put my mommy in. (Pretend to put something in the box.)
I’d take her out and go (Take something out of the box
(kiss, kiss, kiss) and kiss in the air.)
And put her back again.

If my mommy were in my box
Were in my box, then she would always know.
School or play, night or day,
How I love her so! (Cross arms over chest.)

I made this box for mother’s day, (Pretend to hold a box.)
It’s full of love for you.
When we’re apart, hold it to your heart, (Put hands over heart.)
And know I’m thinking of you.   

Box of Love Necklace
You can collect small boxes that jewelry come in or use matchboxes for this project. Spray paint the boxes and then let the children decorate them with stickers, glitter pens, etc. Glue a small picture of the child inside the box. Punch a hole and attach a ribbon so it can be worn around the neck. Teach children the song and let them present their necklaces at a Mother’s Day tea, or send the boxes home with the words to the song.

My Mom Can
Let each child make a predictable book about all the things their mom can do.          

Hats off for Moms
These are adorable hats from paper plates that children can make for their mothers. Cut the inner section out of the plate. Decorate the outer rim with markers. Cut 4” squares out of tissue paper and wad up and glue on the rim to look like flowers. Punch a hole in each side and tie on a 16” piece of string or ribbon. Place the hat on your head and tie under the chin.

Trace around children's hands on construction paper and cut out. Glue to a stem and fold down the middle and ring finger to make sign language for "I love you!"

A Gift from the Heart
Make a flip book and write the following on the flips:
     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 a picture of themselves.)
*Hint! Write "flip book" in my search engine to see how to make this book.
Have children dip their hands in mud (or use paint) and press them on a sheet of paper.  Let them decorate and then add this poem:
     Here are my handprints made for you
     this happy Mother's Day.
     These are ones you can always keep
     and not have to wash away!

Saturday, April 23, 2016


This time of year many of you are stressing out over your “end of the year” program. Listen, no matter what their kids do, the parents will be thrilled and think they are wonderful.  So keep it fun this year with these simple ideas.

Happy Birthday Letters (Totally Reading CD)
Have children bring in baseball caps and sunglasses. Make microphones out of toilet paper rolls wrapped with aluminum foil. Turn the caps backwards as you sing:

Yo A, it’s your birthday.
Let’s all read like your birthday.
/a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/
You B, it’s your birthday…

Who Let the Letters Out? (Kiss Your Brain CD)
Staple ovals to a strip of paper to make doggie headbands. Let children decorate large cardboard letters with glitter and bling bling. Punch a hole in the top and tie on a string to make rapper necklaces. Make a large doghouse to pin on the stage curtains. (Square with an arch cut out. Triangle roof.) As you sing the song children come out of the doghouse dancing and wearing their letters.

Who let the A out?
/a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/
Who let the B out…

Alphabet Remix (Move It! Learn It! CD)
Let children wear glasses, caps, letter necklaces as they do this activity.

Sing the regular ABC song. (Fold hands and sing sweetly.)
I say, A B C D E F G! (clap twice) (Dance from side to side.)
H I J K L M N O P (clap twice)
Q R S, (clap)
T U V, (clap)
W X Y and Z.
Now I know my ABC’s.
Next time, won’t you rap with me? (Make rapper hands and dance.)
A (blow out of the side of your mouth)
B (blow) C (blow)….Z
Now I know my ABC’s (blow).
Now you’re ready to read with me! (blow)
The Very Hungry Class
This is a take off on "The Very Hungry Caterpillar." Choose a song, finger play, or poem that you’ve used for every month in the school year. It will bring back fond memories for your students and will be an easy program to put together for the parents. It might go something like this:

When school started we were a very hungry class eager to learn.
In September we learned our rules -THE RULES RAP.
In October we learned the days of the week – DAYS OF THE WEEK.
November was when we said our letters and sounds – ALPHARDY.
In December we learned the months in the year – MACARENA MONTHS.
January was our Hundreds Day Celebration – ZERO THE HERO STOMP.
In February we learned about money – THE MONEY SONG.
March was time to learn to spell – COLOR FARM.
In April we learned to recycle – REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE.
May was a time to study (plants, dinosaurs, caterpillars, or another song that reflects your standards).
Now, before we say good-bye,
We’ll sing our favorite song for you.
Please stand up and join along
And you can learn to “Tooty Ta”, too! (The audience stands up and does the “Tooty Ta” with you.)        


Author's Tea
After writing and editing original stories, invite parents to a party where each child gets to share her book and read a few pages.

We Like to Move It!
Invite parents to wear sports clothes and join in as the children lead different exercises and movement songs.

Friday, April 22, 2016


I was cleaning out my “teacher” closet yesterday and I found two old books I just had to share with you.

Rainbow Fish Collage
After reading RAINBOW FISH give each child a Hershey’s kiss. (The leftover ones from Easter with the pretty pastel foil work best.) Demonstrate how carefully unwrap the chocolate and smooth out the foil. (I don’t think you’ll have to show them how to eat it!)
Cut two large fish shapes out of blue construction paper for the front and back cover of your book. Cut white paper to fit inside the book. Tell the children that they can help you make a “Rainbow Fish” by gluing their wrappers on the fish shape. Next, give each child a sheet of white paper so they can write/draw how to be a friend. Put their pages in the book and bind. You can also add a page for “authors and illustrators” where they sign their names.

Read the book and discuss all the great ways to be a kind friend. Place the book in your classroom library or let one child take it home each evening to share with their families.

My Lovely City
This is a book that I made several years ago about Charleston. Although you might not live here, it's an idea that you could adapt for your school, city, or state. You could also tie in your state flower, tree, bird, etc.

You will need construction paper and photos of your city, school, state symbols, and so forth. I used a rhyme similar to “Brown Bear” for each page.

Charleston, Charleston, what do you see?
There’s ___site____.
Come with me.

On the last page I wrote:

Do you like Charleston?
Do you like your city?
“Yes,” said Dr. Jean.
“I LOVE IT!” said she.

(I used my pirate picture to add a smile!)

Thursday, April 21, 2016


April 21st really is Kindergarten Day, and as a way of remembering how kindergarten used to be I have recorded this song for you!

Many of you remember being in a kindergarten similar to the one I sung about.  Some of you might even have been lucky enough like me to teach during that magical time.  We can't hold back the ocean, but we can remember to try and "squeeze" in a song, game, and creative activity every day!

Kindergarten (Tune:  "Camelot")
We used to paint, do puzzles, play with play dough,
Read stories, play with blocks, and play pretend.
We sang and we held hands and we danced in kindergarten!
Worksheets were forbidden until first grade.
Testing? Absolutely NOT!
We started every day with a song
And played outside a lot!

Kindergarten! Kindergarten!
I know it sounds a bit bizarre.
But in kindergarten! Kindergarten!
That’s how conditions were.

We had show and tell and field trips,
Cooking, parties, sandboxes, and swings.
In short there was simply not,
A more wonderful spot
For creating happy moments
Than in our kindergartens.

We never had discipline problems.
And did our administrators and parents love us?
We made learning like play with games and centers.
And they all learned just the same - in their own way.
They felt special and worthy and capable!

Kindergarten! Kindergarten!
I know it gives you teachers pause,
But in kindergarten! Kindergarten!
There were developmental laws.

We didn’t have Smart boards or computers.
We hugged, explored, and gave them time to dream.
In short there was simply not
A more memorable spot
For becoming happy grownups
Than in our kindergartens!

My Kinder Friends, 1985    
My Kinder Friend, 2016

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Janet Cantrell is my guest blogger today.  She is a kindergarten teacher after my own heart!  You're going to love her idea for "Home Skills" and encouraging children to learn how to tie shoes!

Teaching kindergarten age children responsibility is one of the first lessons of school.
To encourage responsibility for self needs, I start off the year letting them know that I do not tie their shoes. (I know it’s harsh and I do tie in an emergency.) They need to learn! The more I do for them they will not take the effort to learn for themselves. It is part of growing up.

During our Parent Orientation meeting before school begins we remind our families about "Home Skills" kindergarten which includes tying and zipping, learning their address and phone number, etc.

I keep a bag of “fancy” shoelaces on my rocking chair and occasionally after recess we will take a few minutes to practice tying with a partner who is a Tying Teacher. 

If the child wraps the lace around his/her thigh, they can see and work it easily rather than being all squished up tying on their shoe.

To become a Tying Teacher, they must prove they can tie ‘one loop, around and through.
The “two bunny ears method’ is a good start when you’re four before coming to school, but now it is important to learn the grown up way. It is interesting to find out that some adults only know the two loop method.
When someone needs their shoes tied, a tying teacher can teach them not just tie them.

I send this note to families to practice at home.
CHILDREN need to learn how to tie their own shoes. This is considered a HOME SKILL. Learn it at home!
*A parent shared this little rhyme the she made up as she taught her children to tie.  It could help!  Try it.

Practice Tying
Criss cross (make X and go under)
Pull them tight
Make a loop to look just right (make loop near shoe end)
Over the loop (go around the loop)
Under your thumb (push through in thumb space)
Pull it tight and there it's done! (take hold of loop ends)
PRACTICE and LEARN how to tie! You can be a TYING TEACHER!

2 loop tying is the first effort many children learn. NOW advance to ‘around and through’ to be a Tying Teacher.

When the children are successful at tying they also receive a Tying Teacher certificate.


*Janet's email is if you'd like to contact her.

What's Your Number?
Yes, it's important for children to know their phone number (home or cell) in case of an emergency. It's easy to learn phone numbers to the tune of "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore." Give it a try!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Here are more center activities and games for learning a second language. Yep! You've seen them all before, but did you ever think about using them for practicing a second language?

By the way, have you found this website? (Finding a useful, meaningful, and free website is like finding a gold nugget, isn't it?)

Peeking Puppies
Cut puppies out of construction paper using the attached pattern. Write the word in Spanish on the body of the puppy. Fold down the ear and write the word in English under the ear. Children identify the word and then self-check by “peeking” under the ear.        


Sock Match
Cut matching socks out of construction paper. Write a word in English on one sock and the Spanish translation on another sock. Mix the socks up in a bag. Children find the matching socks and clothespin them together.

Cut 4” circles out of poster board or fun foam. Write the word in Spanish on one side and the English translation on the other side. Children will need a pancake turner/spatula to play the game. Spread the circles on the table. Children read the word and translate. Then they flip over the circle to check their response on the back.  

Stretch and Match

You will need heavy cardboard cut in 5” x 8” rectangles. Cut notches in each of the long sides as shown. Write a word in Spanish by each notch on the left side. Write a word in English by each notch on the right side. Children stretch rubber bands between matching words. Draw lines between correct answers on the back so children can self-check.

Poke and Peek
Cut simple shapes out of poster board (cars, animals, plants, etc.) Punch holes around the edge of the shape. Write a word in English by each hole on one side of the shape. On the reverse side write the word in Spanish by the appropriate hole. Children take a straw or pencil and insert it by a word. After translating the word, they flip the shape over and check their response on the back.
Hint! Children could also play this game with a friend.    
Use 3” x 5” index cards to make this game. Write a word in English on one card and the corresponding word in Spanish on another card. Place the card face down on a table. Children take turns choosing two cards at a time and trying to match up words.