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Sunday, July 31, 2016


Well, now that you’ve got your highway letters, let’s see what you can do with highway numbers. WOW! Look at all the standards you can teach in a playful and active way!

Writing Numerals – Children can trace over numerals with toy cars or they can roll play dough and place it on top of the numerals. They can also trace over numerals with a dry erase marker and erase.

Counting – Have children get in numerical order according to the number they are wearing.

Songs – Wear number vests as you sing “Five Little Monkeys,” “I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a One,” and other songs.

Inequalities - Put up two numbers and have children choose “<” or “>” to go between them.

Addition and Subtraction – Have children make number sentences using the numbers and signs on the vests.

Fact Families – Move numbers around to demonstrate different fact families.

Decomposing Numbers – Call out a number. Children find a friend to equal that amount.

Tens and Ones – Let children demonstrate tens and ones with vests.

Word Problems – Use number vests to engage children in solving word problems.

Dot to Dot - Pass out numbers and have children scatter around the room. Give one child a large pointer. That child takes the pointer and goes from “0” through “10” by “connecting the dots.”
Highway Shapes – Do similar activities by putting highway shapes in clear sheet protectors.

Note! I’d suggest making some additional cards with math signs, such as “+” “-“ “=” “<” “>” and so forth.

Saturday, July 30, 2016


If you’ve ever been to my workshops you know I PUSH these highway letters because they can be used with a variety of skills and age levels. You can purchase a book with these or download them free at I put mine in clear sheet protectors because it’s cheaper and easier than laminating. You can also punch holes at the top and tie on string so the children can wear them like letter vests.

Here are just a few ways you can use the highway letters with different age levels throughout the school year.

Toy Cars - Let children drive over letters with toy cars.

Writing - Trace over the letters with dry erase markers. Erase and use again and again.
Hint! Put a green dot where they start and a red dot where they stop.
Play Dough - Roll play dough and place on top of the letters.

Songs - Pass out letter vests to children. Let them stand up when their letter is sung in the song.

Phonics - Practice blending C V C words. (consonant, vowel, consonant) with vests. Add the “silent e” to words to change the vowel sound.

Chunking - Start by asking children who are wearing “a” and “t” to stand. What does that say? Ask “m” to stand in front of “at.” What does that say? Tell “m” to go away and have “r” stand in front of “at.” Have children suggest other letters to stand in front of “at.” Reinforce other word families with this strategy.

Spelling Words - Slowly call out sight words or spelling words. (Stretch out the sounds.) Children come up if they are wearing that sound and make the word.

ABC Order- Children arrange themselves in alphabetical order according to the letter that they are wearing.

Hint! You can also play “I Have – Who Has?” with the letters. For example: “I have A. Who has B?” “I have B. Who has C?”

Friday, July 29, 2016


Asking questions is a powerful teaching strategy, but if one child continually blurts out the answer it doesn’t give the rest of the class thinking time. Question sticks help you make sure you call on everyone in the class. These sticks also encourage self-regulation because they remind children to wait their turn and think quietly. Prepare these question sticks ahead of time and then when school starts all you have to do is write your students’ names on the sticks.
Hint! Tell children to smile if they know the answer and maybe you’ll chose their stick!!!
What? jumbo craft sticks, red and green markers, cup

How? Color one end of each stick green and the other end red. Write children’s names in the middle and place in the cup with the green end on top. Ask a question and then swirl the cup around. Pull out a stick and that child gets to answer the question. If a child doesn’t know the answer it’s great to let them “phone a friend” (ask someone else) or “ask the audience” (group response). Place their stick back in the can with the red on top. When all the sticks are red and every child has had a chance to answer a question, turn them over and begin again.

I’ve also got some brain prompt cards you can make and save on a book ring. Use these to develop higher level thinking strategies in your students.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Yes, flannel boards are “old fashion,” but children today enjoy them just as much as children did 25 years ago. To make a simple flannel board, staple the sides of a file folder and glue felt to the front. You can glue words to stories and finger plays on the back and then store the pieces inside.

*Make simple story characters from felt so children can practice retelling stories.

*Make simple objects or shapes from felt for math activities.


*Cut out children’s photos and attach Velcro to the back. Children can use the characters to create original stories.

*Use felt pieces as visuals for finger plays.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Games are a natural way to develop social skills as you reinforce letters, words, numbers, math facts, etc. Games are also a good way to nurture self-regulation and 21st Century Skills of cooperation and communication.

Stinky Cheese is a hit no matter what age or what skill. In fact, a teacher created “stinky feet” and “stinky socks” because her students enjoyed it so much. But the real secret of any game is YOU! You add the magic with a dramatic voice and silly giggle.
Someone once asked me if I would play the game if a student got upset if they lost. My answer was, “YES!” Children need to learn how to lose. Role play what you should do if you lose by teaching the children to shrug and say, “Oh, well!” Don’t overreact or force them to play, but make it so much fun they won’t be able to resist!

Stinky Cheese
Why? sight words, fluency phrases, letters, math facts, shapes, etc.
What? lunch bag, yellow construction paper, marker
How? Cut cheese slices out of poster board or fun foam using the link below. Write letters, words, numbers, etc. on most of the cheese slices. On two slices write “Stinky Cheese!” Place the cheese slices in a lunch sack. Children pass around the sack drawing out one slice at a time. If they can identify the information on the slice they
get to keep it. If they get “Stinky Cheese!” everyone holds their noses and says, “Stinky Cheese!” That person must then put all her slices back in the bag.

*How about a game of “stinky feet” and “stinky socks”?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Brain breaks are short movement activities that help children focus and give them a positive outlet for energy and wiggles. Young children need brain breaks every 15-20 minutes to energize their brains and activate their senses. However, children tell you things by their behavior and they’ll let you know when it’s time to get up and move!


It’s important for the teacher to model brain breaks and participate with the students. These activities have an additional benefit by reducing stress and boredom – in adults and children!

Here are three pages of brain breaks that are quick, easy, and fun.


My suggestion would be to choose one at a time and practice it for several days. (Not all of these are going to work, so just throw the ones your students don’t like in the trash and move on to another one.) Glue popular activities to an index card or jumbo craft stick and save them in a bag. After a few weeks you’ll have a bag full of brain breaks.
*Older students will enjoy choosing a brain break and leading their classmates.

Monday, July 25, 2016


What? small swing trashcan (from the dollar store), googly eyes, pom pom, felt scraps, craft glue, magnetic letters
How? Decorate the trashcan similar to the one shown. Insert magnetic letters in Letter Man. Children take turns pulling out a letter, making the sound, and saying a word that starts with that sound.

*Ask children to feed Letter Man all the vowels…all the letters that are blue…the letters in alphabetical order…the letters in their name, etc.

*Place Letter Man in a center. Children choose a letter and then write it on their paper. Older children could write a word that starts with that letter.

*Children choose a handful of letters. How many words can they write with those letters?

*Write sight words on index cards. Feed letter man the cards as you sing, “I know an old man who swallowed a word. What would he say if he swallowed the word? That’s absurd!”

Sunday, July 24, 2016


Sign language is quiet, free, provides another pathway to the brain, and keeps those little hands busy! Here are a few simple songs you can use to introduce manual signs for alphabet letters.

     Sing and Sign
     (“Where Is Thumbkin?” – Children repeat each line.)
     Where is A? (Hands behind back.)
     Here I am. (Make sign for “a.”)
     What do you say, A?
     /a/, /a/, /a/.

Continue using other letters and making the manual signs.

The Alphabet in My Hands

(“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”)
     I’ve got A /a/ /a/ in my hands. (Sign the letter “a.”)
     I’ve got A /a/ /a/ in my hands.
     I’ve got A /a/ /a/ in my hands
     And I can read.

Continue signing and singing other letters.

Hint! Encourage the children to make “strong” letters. As children tighten up muscles in their hands, they will also be strengthening small motor skills.

Sign Language Center - Make a SIGN LANGUAGE CENTER with a pocket folder. Glue a copy of manual signs for letters on the inside of the folder. Write alphabet letters on index cards and place in the pocket. Children choose a card and then try to reproduce that sign. For older children, write sight words or spelling words on index cards for them to practice spelling manually.


Classroom Management - Learn signs for classroom transitions, such as “pay attention,” “sit down,” “water,” or “restroom.”

Sign and Spell – Use sign language to spell children’s names and other words.
*For older children fingerspell words and see who can decode them.

Word Wall Words – Learn signs for high frequency words. Visit and click on “dictionary” to see signs demonstrated.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


How about a few "tools" for your bag of tricks!

You Knock My Socks Off! 
You will need an old pair of socks, a stick, and a piece of string 18” long for this project. Tie a sock to each end of the string. Tie the middle of the string to the stick. When children do something outstanding, take the stick and wave it in the air as you say, “You knock my socks off!”
Mr. Good for You!
A cloth glove, markers, fiberfill, and pipe cleaner are all you need to make a “good for you hand.” First, draw a happy face on one side of the glove with the markers. Fill the glove tightly with fiberfill or another stuffing. Gather the bottom of the glove and secure with a pipe cleaner. Children get “Mr. Good for You” and pat themselves on the back when they accomplish a new task.
Magic Lotion
Take an empty pump dispenser of hand lotion and remove the label. Make a new label for the lotion that says, “Mr./Mrs. (your name)’s Magic Lotion” and tape it to the bottle. When children are upset, frustrated, get a boo boo, or have hurt feelings, give them a “squirt” of magic lotion.


Thursday, July 21, 2016


In the book THE SMARTEST KIDS IN THE WORLD, one key finding was the impact parents have on their child’s academic success. When parents are interested in what their children are learning at school and talk to them about it, the results are amazing. Parents who model reading and read to their children also contribute to school success.

One teacher said she tells her parents, “All the children in my classroom need a laptop this year. Two laptops would be even better. These are not the kind of laptops that you plug in. They are the kind that come with two knees and are just right for talking and reading and loving!”

Check out these monthly reading calendars that will engage families at home. Run them off and you’ll be set for the year.

Hint! Save these to review with your parents at conference time.

Brown Bag Special
Many parents work and can’t volunteer in the classroom so this is a perfect opportunity to get them involved. When you have things that need to be cut out or if there is something you’d like downloaded from the internet, put it in a large grocery bag that says “Brown Bag Special.” Children whose parents agree to help take the bag home for their parents to do the project.


We’ve always known that repetition is a key to skill mastery. However, if children simply practice reading, or counting, or other skills over and over they will get bored. These fluency cards will engage children by letting them use silly voices and movements as they learn.

These strategies can be used for rereading books, saying poems, reading the word wall, counting, and reviewing numerous skills. If they say it, they will remember it!!
What? small box or gift bag, copy of fluency cards

How? Write “voice box” on the box or bag. Cut apart the fluency cards and place them in the box. Children choose cards and then practice reading with that “voice.”

Download the fluency cards here:

Here’s a video where you can watch me demonstrate the different styles and strategies. The more dramatic you are, the more your students will get involved.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Today I’ve got some simple “brain toys” that could be used in a variety of ways in your classroom to release energy and promote active learning.


You can get these swim noodles on sale now or at a dollar store. Cut them into 8” - 9” sections and store them in a plastic tub. Pass these out to your students give them a few minutes to “mess around” and pretend they are Luke Skywalker. Explain that whenever you say “Statue of Liberty” they have to freeze and hold their noodle up like a torch.

*Follow the Leader – Play some music and have the students follow along with you as you cross the midline and make other movements with the noodle.

*Air Writing – Use noodles to practice pre-writing strokes, letters, shapes, numerals, and so forth in the air with big movements.

*Massage – Brush noodles down arms or legs. Place the noodle on the floor and roll on it to give yourself a massage.

Therapy Bands
Purchase a large roll of exercise resistance bands and cut it into 18” sections. Cut these in half horizontally and give one to each child. 

*Children can stretch the bands as they extend sounds in a word. 

*Exercise with the bands as you count, say the ABC’s, read word wall words, spell, and so forth. Stretch above your head, behind you, vertically, etc.

Hint! You can purchase rolls of the exercise bands online at Target and many other stores.

Juggling Scarves
You can purchase scarves or buy netting and cut it into 9” squares. Begin by giving each child one square to catch and toss. Let them play catch with a friend. Can they toss it, clap one time, and then catch it? Let them think of other tricks to do with their scarves.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Talk about playful and challenging! Take a look at all these things you can do with toy cars. You can pick them up at garage sales or buy them for $1 or less at a dollar store. Use these cars for centers, games, and other activities in your classroom.

What? toy cars, sticky dots, marker
How? Put sticky dots on the cars and number them 1-10. Fasten your seatbelt and here we go!

Numerical Order
Write numerals on sticky dots and place them on the cars. Can children arrange them in order?

Place Value

Use cars for tens and ones.
Sets and Numbers
Make a parking lot with different sets of dots in each space. Children match up numbers on the cars with the correct space.
Roll and Add
Write numerals 1-12 on a long strip of paper. Children roll two dice, add up the numbers, and then move their car to the correct space.

Ask children to sort the cars. What was their sorting rule? Can they sort them another way?

Write lower letters on sticky dots and put them on the cars. Make paper houses with uppercase letters. Can they match the cars with the houses?
Phonological Awareness
Make a parking lot with three spaces. As you say a word children park the car according to where they hear the sound (beginning, middle, end) of the word.


Monday, July 18, 2016


These cheer cards can be used to focus children’s attention and put a smile on their faces. Every child in your classroom can feel good with these cheers. 

What? cheer cards, Cheerios box or Cheer detergent box

How? Introduce one new cheer each day. I’d suggest taking one each day and practicing it all day long. Get a Cheerios box or a Cheer detergent box to save your cheers in. Then when you want to encourage a child have them reach into the “cheer box” and lead the class in that cheer.

I have two different sets of cheer cards so you can choose the one that you like best.         


Here’s the video where you can watch me demonstrate many of the cheers.

Sunday, July 17, 2016


This is a useful tool to use with a small group, for independent practice, or work with a partner.

What? cookie tin, magnetic letters

How? Place a set of magnetic letters inside the cookie tin. On the inside cover make three lines with a permanent marker. Have the children take out the letters and place them around the lid. Call out a sound and have the children select that letter and place it on the first line in the lid. Call out a second sound. Call out a third sound. Blend the sounds and read the word.

Hint! Make several of these and use with a guided reading group.

*Use for other phonics lessons. “What other words can you make by changing the first sound?” “Can you make a word by changing the end sound?”

*Older students could use these for spelling words and other word games.

*Store small magnetic letters in a breath mint tin.

*Use magnetic letters on a cookie sheet to make words.

*Hide magnetic letters in a sandbox and let children hunt for them with a magnet.

Saturday, July 16, 2016


Read THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD to your students at the beginning of the school year. Remind them that in your classroom everyone says “I Can” because you are AmeriCANS!

What? Pringle’s can, paper, googly eyes, craft glue (E6000)

How? Cover the can with paper and glue on googly eyes. Pass the “eye can” around the room as each child says a sentence beginning with “I can…”
Hint! If a child says, “I can’t!” just place the can in front of them and remind them that “I can!”

I Think I Can
This is a great song to sing to encourage children to always give it a try. It goes to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
     I think I can are words I like to say.
     I think I can are words I like to say.
     In time I’ll get it right if I try with all my might.
     I think I can are words I like to say.

Friday, July 15, 2016


Play dough is multi-sensory, engaging, creative, and open-ended. Talk about PURPOSEFUL PLAY! These play dough plates are a perfect way to strengthen those small muscles and reinforce letter recognition.

What? plastic plates, play dough, permanent marker

How? Write letters on the plastic plates with a permanent marker. Children roll the play dough and place it on top of the letters. Challenge them to make something that starts with that sound.

Hint! I traced around the letter on the front and back of the plate. You can use upper case letters, lowercase letters, or both like I do.

Number Plates
Write numbers on plastic plates. Children can roll play dough and place it on top of the numbers and then make sets to equal that amount.  Can they make different combinations of six?
Shape Plates
You can also make shape plates for the children to reproduce.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


Good readers are active readers and they are always looking for information. These story sticks will prompt children to listen carefully so they can identify the story elements.

What? jumbo craft sticks, sock, markers

How? Write story elements (Who? What? Where? When? Why?) on sticks with a marker. Place the sticks in the sock and throw the sock over your shoulder before you begin to read. After reading the story, let different students choose a stick and tell that part of the story.

*Make another set of sticks that say “Title,” “Author,” “Illustrator,” “Problem,” “Solution.”
*Write “Setting,” “Characters,” “Beginning,” “Middle,” “End” on sticks.

Who? What? Where? When? Why?
Sing this song to the tune of “Ten Little Indians” before reading a story so children will be looking for the information:
     Who? What? Where? When? Why?
     Who? What? Where? When? Why?
     Who? What? Where? When? Why?
     Ask questions when you read.

I've Got the Whole Story in My Hand
On the fingers of a cotton glove write:  "Who?"  "What?"  "Where?"  "When?"  "Why?"

Sing this song to the tune of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."
     I've got the whole story in my hand.
     I've got the whole story in my hand.
     I've got the whole story in my hand
     And I can read.
     I've got the  "Who?"  "What?"  "Where?"  "When?"  "Why?"
     I've got the  "Who?"  "What?"  "Where?"  "When?"  "Why?"
     I've got the  "Who?"  "What?"  "Where?"  "When?"  "Why?"
     And I can read.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Letter Cups

What? plastic cups, permanent markers or letter stickers

How? Write letters on the cups. Children can use these to make high frequency words, match upper and lowercase letters, make CVC words, etc.

*Ask children to stack the cups in alphabetical order.

*Write words on cups and use for making and reading simple sentences.

Hint! Store letter cups in an empty Pringle’s can.

Number Cups

How? Write numbers on cups and ask children to stack them in numerical order.
*Trace around the bottom of a cup on a file folder. Write numerals in the circles. Children match up numbers on cups to those on the file folder.

*Write math facts on the sides of the cups. Write answers on a sticky dot and place them inside the cup. Children say the answer and then check underneath. They can build a pyramid with the cups if they answer correctly.