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Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Story sticks are another way to prompt writing.

Materials: jumbo craft sticks
pictures of people, places, events
glue, tape
jumbo craft sticks
green, yellow, and orange construction paper
magazines, newspapers


Directions: Cut 3” circles out of each color of construction paper. Let the children cut out pictures of people, places, and events from the magazines and newspapers. You will need 5-10 of each. Glue the pictures of people to the orange circles, the pictures of places to the green circles, and the pictures of events to the yellow circles. Tape the circles to jumbo craft sticks and place them in a cup or can.

Invite the children to choose a stick of each color to help them write a story. The orange will be the WHO/the main character. The green stick will be WHERE/the place. The yellow stick will be the WHAT/the plot.


*Use photos of classmates, the teacher, famous people, animals, etc. for the WHO sticks.

*To encourage informative writing, tie in the story sticks to units of study or current events. For example, you could use pictures of Presidents, habitats, or environmental issues.

*Let two children work together to write a story.

*Place the sticks in the writing center for independent work.

Hint!  For younger children use the story sticks to encourage oral language.  Make sticks with interesting characters or objects and let them choose one or two and create a story using them.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


A teacher recently asked me if I had any suggestions for writing prompts. I think using holidays, units of study, and interests of the students are a good start, but I’ve got a few other ideas today for you.

Chew and Write
Here is an idea that is sure to motivate children to write. Give children a piece of sugarless gum. Once they write their name they can open the gum and start chewing. They are allowed to chew the gum as long as they keep on writing!
Predictable Sentences
Give children an open-ended sentence to encourage writing.

I can…

I like…

I don’t like…

I see…

I want…

I am...

I wish I were…

When I grow up…

Class Books
These are topics that you could use to make class books. Each child writes and illustrates a page and then bind them together.
















WHAT DOES THE PRINCIPAL DO ALL DAY?  (One of my favorites!)

Monday, February 26, 2018


Tell a Fairy Tale Day is February 26th, but any day is perfect for a fairy tale!

Some people think fairy tales are too violent for young children. And I would agree that some of them are a little twisted and dark. However, most of them aren’t any more violent than Saturday morning cartoons. The bottom line is children have enjoyed these stories for hundreds of years. Proof that a good story is a good story! There is usually a protagonist (good character) that struggles with an evil character. The best part of fairy tales is that they always end happily and good prevails. Many psychologists support fairy tales because they believe children will face “dragons” throughout their lives, and fairy tales give them hope, determination, and strength to defeat their problems.

Let’s see how we can use “Tell a Fairy Tale Day” as a springboard for teaching different types of texts.

What is a fairy tale? 

What do children know about fairy tales?
Are they fiction or non-fiction? Why? 

How many fairy tales can they name?
Make a list on the board as they call them out.
Go to the library and search for fairy tale books.


Get a storybook (without pictures) and have the children close their eyes as you read to them. Challenge them to make pictures in their brain.
*Stop before the end of the book and ask them to draw pictures of what they think will happen. Compare their predictions with what actually happened by reading the end of the book.

Read several different versions of the same fairy tale and compare and contrast.

Compare different illustrations of the same fairy tale.

Creative Activities 
Let children dress up like their favorite character from a fairy tale. Encourage them to retell the story and explain why they chose that character. 

Have children make puppets of favorite fairy tale characters from lunch bags, paper plates, or sticks.

Divide children into small groups and let them act out their favorite scene from a fairy tale.

I was a lucky little girl because I grew up before videos and iPads. I do remember my mother reading to us from this storybook every night. Look at the forward I found when I opened the book! 


This book is my house.
The door is open and I shall enter.
I shall be happy here because my house has so many windows and
my companions are men and women who love me.
Here I will find laughter, love, romance, beauty, and happiness.

If you are reading my blog today I know you are the type of teacher that instills the “love and happiness” from books. Thank you for keeping the joy alive!

Sunday, February 25, 2018


I like to read, 
Oh, yes, I do! 
I like to read. 
I’ll read with you!! 

Children have always longed to do what they see adults do.  When I was a little girl I saw my parents and older brother and sister read, and I wanted to learn how to do it, too!  I used to beg my mother to teach me how to read, and she'd smile and say, "You'll have to wait until you go to first grade."  And I did learn to read on that first day in first grade.  "Look, look, look!  Oh, look, look, look!"  It was magic!  Can you believe that I'm a pretty good reader and I didn't learn until I was over six years old?  Go figure!!!!
Since children don't see adults reading in their homes, we have to really "sell" reading in our classrooms.  When you read to your class remember to say, “I love to read. It’s so special to read with you.” If your class is reading independently you can comment, “WOW! This is a class of amazing readers! It makes me happy to see all of you reading and enjoying books like I do.” 

One time when I visited a school I said to the teacher, “I can't believe how well your students can read!” The teacher smiled and said so all could hear, “You know, my children have learned how much fun it is to read and they just want to read all the time!” That’s the power of positive thinking and the power that we have to influence children’s feelings and interests.

Here’s a chant that my daughter wrote a few years ago. It’s done like “Cadence” where children repeat each line.

We Like Books 
We like to read, yes we do. (Slap thighs and step from side to side.)
We like books. How about you? (Point to self and then others.)

Books are my friends wherever I go.
When I have a book I’m never alone. (Shake head.)

Search for treasure, solve mysteries. (Hand over forehead.)
Meet famous people from history.

Ride on a dinosaur long ago.
Or fly to the future with a UFO. (Slap hands.) 

You can travel to faraway places. (Arms out like airplane.)
Mountains, beaches, or desert oasis.

Learn about pandas and rattle snakes. (Palms together like snake.)
Just look in a book, that’s all it takes.

If you’re feeling sad or blue (Look sad.)
Books are always there for you. (Smile and open palms like a book.)

*Encourage your students to talk about why they like to read.  Let them each contribute a page for a class book called "We Like Books."

Saturday, February 24, 2018


I'm telling you about this a few days early because it's going to take some planning to get "unplugged" for the day.

From sundown to sundown, beginning Friday (March 1), some are putting down their cellphones, shutting off computers, and ignoring the Internet in celebration of the fourth annual National Day of Unplugging.

There are many things we do in schools that don’t have an impact on children, but I bet if you “unplugged” for one day it would leave a lasting impression. It could also lead to some great learning opportunities. Students could write opinions, do a T-Chart of things to do with a screen and without a screen, graph preferences, make a book about what to do without technology, do a Venn diagram...

Have you read BLACKOUT by John Rocco. It’s a delightful tale about what happens when a family in a big city loses power. I won’t tell you what happens, but I bet you can guess. I was talking to some children recently about the “olden days” before televisions, video games, cell phones, and computers. They were stunned and said, “What did you do?” I smiled and replied, “You know what? We played outside and had lots of fun!”

Several years ago a teacher told me that they asked the families at her school to record the amount of screen time their child had for a week. The next week they asked the parents to turn off all devices and spend the same amount of time interacting with their child by reading, playing games, doing chores around the house, going for walks, etc. Do you think most families could survive this? It certainly would be a meaningful challenge!

Friday, February 23, 2018


Bet you didn't know that February 23rd was International Dog Biscuit Day!  Let's see how we can recycle a box of dog biscuits in our classroom.

Woof!  Woof!
Make a “Woof! Woof” game. Cut out dog bones and write sight words, math facts, letters, etc. on them. On a few write “Woof! Woof!” Pass the box around and let each child pull out a bone and identify the information. If they select “Woof! Woof!” they have to get down on the floor on all fours and bark like a dog. (They love it!) 


Dog Biscuit Math
Use the dog biscuits for math activities. Add, subtract, make sets, sort… This dog dish with two sections is perfect for tens and ones.

Who Let the Letters Out?

Place letters in a dog dish or empty box of dog biscuits. Children reach in
and pull out one letter at a time as you chant:
Who let the D out?
/d/ /d/ /d/ /d/ /d/


Our Pets

Make a book about pets. Cut the front and back off the box and cut paper the size of the box. Give each child a sheet of paper so they can draw a picture of their pet and write or dictate a sentence about it. (If they don’t have a pet they can draw a picture of a pet they would like to have.) Put their pictures between the covers of the box, hole punch, and you’re ready to read. 


Dog Food (O.K.  I know this isn't healthy, but its such fun!!!)
You will need:
12 oz. bag chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter
1 stick butter
10-12 oz. box Multi-Bran Chex Cereal
powdered sugar

1. Wash your hands.
2. Melt the first three ingredients in a pan over low heat.
3. Pour the mixture over the Chex cereal and mix until coated.
4. Put 2 paper grocery sacks together, one inside the other.
Pour ½ cup powdered sugar into the bottom of the bag.
Pour in the cereal mixture, close the bag, and shake.
Keep checking and adding powdered sugar until the mixture
looks like dog food.

For fun, serve in a clean dog food bowl!

Thursday, February 22, 2018


This is an easy strategy that you can integrate to wake up those little brains - and maybe your brain, too!  Draw a line from your forehead down the middle of your body. That’s called your midline. The brain is made up of two hemispheres and when you cross that midline it helps both hemispheres of the brain work together. Here are some exercises for crossing the midline that are perfect for a brain break or between content areas.

Hint! Place a piece of painter's tape down the children's midline so they can visually see how they cross it as you exercise and learn.


Turn on Your Brain
Use this idea to start each morning.
     Turn on the right side of your brain. (Left hand touches right side of head.)
     Turn on the left side of your brain. (Right hand touches left side of head.)
     Turn on your right ear.  (Touch right ear with left hand.)
     Turn on your left ear.  (Touch left ear with right hand.)
     Turn on your right eye.  (Point to right eye with left hand.)
     Turn on your left eye.  (Point to left eye with right hand.)
     You don't have to turn on your mouth because it's always "on."
     Now you're ready to learn!!

Simple Tap
Touch right hand to left knee and left hand to right knee. 
*Say letters of the alphabet, count, read sight words, etc. as you tap.

Bend and Stretch
Lift left knee and touch with right elbow. Lift right knee and touch with left elbow. 
Backwards Touch
Lift left foot behind you and stretch back with right hand and touch. Reverse for the right foot and left hand. 

Catch a Star
Reach with right hand up in the air to your left and pretend to catch a star. Then reach with your left hand up in the air to your right and catch a star. 

Pat on the Back 
Alternate patting the back of your left shoulder with your right hand and your right shoulder with your left hand. 

Brain Hug 
Thumbs up. Thumbs down. Cross your arms. Clasp your fingers. 
Bring your hands under and into your chest. Give yourself a hug. 

Karate Chops 

Spread your feet apart and bend your knees. Alternate hands making karate chops as you skip count by ones, fives, tens, etc.
*Spell the letters in words and then fold hands and bow as you say the word.  


PVC Rhythm and Dance Wands
Bobby Verostko shared these PVC rhythm and dance wands she made which are perfect for crossing the midline. She used colorful duct tape, PVC scraps and some tulle her aunt gave her. For dance wands she used 4” PVC pipes and for rhythm sticks she used 9 ½” pipes. She used hot glue to insert the 1” tulle streamers in the pipes. (Although Bobby said you could use any size or number you wanted.) These are perfect for a school program or just following along to favorite songs. She said her children love them. One child said, “They are like the wind!”


Wednesday, February 21, 2018


Some children need more “thinking time” than others. When students blurt out the answer, it deprives some students of that time. These strategies will also develop self-regulation and encourage your students to think of divergent answers.

Whisper and Release
Have children hold up their hand and whisper their answer in their fist. When most children have responded say, "1, 2, 3, release!" Children open their fist and whisper their answer.

Thumbs Up Thinking
Explain that you are going to ask a question. If they know the answer they can put their thumb up next to their chest.


*If they know more than one answer, they can put up a finger for each additional thing they know.

Pop Up Q & A
To review information, divide children into partners. Ask the question or give a math problem. Students discuss the answer with their partner and then stoop to the ground. When all the groups are squatting down, the teacher says, “One, two, three!” Children pop up and say the answer. If they arrived at different answers, let the class evaluate the correct response.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Have you ever heard the saying:  "Work smarter, not harder."  That's what I like so much about the brain research.  There are some very simple strategies that you can easily integrate into your day that can improve learning in powerful ways.  

According to brain research children need to recall information throughout the day. (Think of it as that extra pat on the back or a second helping of dessert.)  Here are a few tips for having children recall information after you’ve read a story, taught a lesson, or at the end of the day.

Thumbs Up Thinking – If you’ve learned something new you can stick up your thumb. If you’ve learned more than one new thing you can stick up a finger for each additional thing.

Right Now! Right Now! - Stop at random times in the day and shout, “Right now, right now, right now, right now! Who can raise their hand and tell me something they know right now that they didn’t know when they came in the classroom this morning?”

Partner Share – Have children turn to a friend and share something new they learned.

Toss and Tell – Take a bean bag or wadded up paper ball. Ask a review question and then toss the ball to a student. The student answers the question or says something they learned and then tosses the ball back to you. Continue as time permits.


Draw – Let children make “thinking pads” by cutting scrap paper into fourths. Staple about 10 sheets together. Use thinking pads to have children illustrate what they’ve learned after a lesson or after reading a book.

Visualize – Have children close their eyes and reflect on what they did well and what they learned.

Microphone – Pass around a play microphone or telephone for children to state what they’ve learned.
*Let children pretend they are a news reporter and state facts about the day.

Catch a Star
Ask children to think of something new they learned or something they did that made them feel proud. Tell them to reach up and grab a star and then put it in their hearts.

Close Your Eyes and Smile
Have children close their eyes. If they can see something new they learned they can open their eyes and smile at you.

Fist List
Children make a fist and then hold up a finger for each new thing they learned that day. 


Kiss Your Brain – Write “Kiss Your Brain!” on a poster and tape it to your door. Before children leave for the day they must say something they learned and then kiss their brains.

Chant – Start a beat for this chant by slapping thighs and clapping hands. Go around the room as you say the chant and children respond:
     Hey, Hey, what do you say?  
     What did you learn in school today?

So, what do you RECALL from reading my blog today? Can you use one of these ideas in your classroom this year?

Monday, February 19, 2018



Here's another short video I made with a silly song that the kids adore. I'll also attach the directions for the story because I bet your children will want to hear it again and again.

Way up in the sky
The big birdies fly.
Way down in the nest
The little birds rest.
With a wing on the left,
And a wing on the right.
The little birds sleep
All through the night.


Then up comes the sun,
The dew falls away.
Good morning! Good morning!
The little birds say.


Here's the link for the story.

Sunday, February 18, 2018


Nothing motivates me like a compliment! Someone said her students enjoyed the videos that I made "just for kids," and so I have a new one for you. "Alligator" is an engaging chant where children echo the words. I also tell my "Alphagator" story on this video.

Here are the words, as well as the pattern for the story.

Alligator. (Extend arms and open and close like a mouth.)
Can be your friend, can be your friend,
Can be your friend, too! (Point finger.)

The alligator is my friend, (Point to self.)
And he can be your friend, too. (Point to a friend.)
If only you could understand, (Hold up palms.)
Don’t wear him as a show! (Chorus)

The alligator is my friend. (Point to self.)
He likes to dance and flirt. (Shuffle feet and fluff hair.)
If only you could understand, (Hold up palms.)
Don’t wear him as a skirt. (Chorus)

The alligator is my friend. (Point to self.)
He likes to sing and dance. (Snap fingers and dance.)
If only you could understand, (Hold palms up.)
Don’t wear him as your pants. (Chorus) (Point to pants or legs.)

Directions: Use the link to download the alligator pattern. Cut it out of the front of a file folder. Insert 10 sheets of green paper and print the underlined letters in his stomach so they are displayed as the Alphagator eats them. Glue a copy of the story to the back of the file folder so you can read it as you remove one sheet at a time.

I love letters! How many of you boys and girls love letters? When you learn letters and their sounds you can put them together and make words, and then you can read! Well, once there was an Alphagator and he absolutely adored the letters of the alphabet! He’d eat letters and dream sweet dreams all night long.

On Monday he ate the letters A B C D E F,
But the pointy part of the “A” kept poking his tummy,
And he couldn’t sleep a wink all night long.

On Tuesday he ate the letters G H I J K,
But “H” and “I” made a word and said over and over, “Hi! Hi! Hi!”
And he couldn’t sleep a wink all night long.

On Wednesday he ate the letters L M N O P,
But “O” kept rolling back and forth in his tummy,
And he couldn’t sleep a wink all night long.

On Thursday he ate the letters Q R S T U V,
But “S” kept playing snake in his tummy and going, “Ssssssss!”
And he couldn’t sleep a wink all night long.

On Friday he ate the letters W X Y Z.
Then he closed his eyes and dreamed sweet “Zzzzzzz’s” all night long.
See you later Alphagator!

Saturday, February 17, 2018


February 17th is officially Random Acts of Kindness Day, but these activities are perfect any day!  You'll definitely want to check out this website: 

What does "random acts of kindness" mean? Brainstorm examples and then challenge each of your students to do at least 3 acts of kindness today. 

Write "The Kindness Club" on the board or a poster and have students write the names of classmates who do something kind for them.

Give each child 3 "kindness tickets" to distribute to friends who do something nice for them.

Make bracelets from pipe cleaners. When they do a good deed they can get a bead and add it to their bracelet.

Make a "Kindness Book" where students can record something positive a classmate has done for them.


Friday, February 16, 2018


Piggyback tunes have been used forever because once the melodies are in the brain you can easily change the words. I read a book called MOZART FOR THE BRAIN several years ago and it pointed out that children can only focus on one thing at a time. It’s difficult to learn words and melodies at the same time, but if the tune is in the brain it is much easier to learn the lyrics.

Everybody knows “BINGO” so here are a few new learning opportunities for this familiar tune.

Zip Code
There is a zip code where we live and we know our zip code.
3 - 2 – 1 – 5 - 5
3 - 2 – 1 – 5 - 5
3 - 2 – 1 – 5 – 5
Now we know our zip code.

There are some letters you should know and they are the vowels.
A – E – I – O – U
A – E – I – O - U
A – E – I – O - U
And now you know the vowels.
There are five senses that we use to help us learn each day.
See (Point to eyes.)
Hear (Point to ears.)
Smell (Point to nose.)
Taste (Point to mouth.)
Touch (Hold up hands.)
See, hear, smell, taste, touch,
See, hear, smell, taste, touch,
We use them every day.

Word Families
There is a word family you should know and ILL is it’s name-o.
They end in ILL you know.
Number Bonds
There are some facts that you should know and they all equal seven.
2 + 5
3 + 4
6 + 1
7 + 0

Now it’s time to say good-bye
And end our school day.
We learned a lot today.
We worked hard and we played.
We were kind in many ways.
So long, friends, for today.

Thursday, February 15, 2018


When I visited Mitchell School last week I was impressed with the “little artistic touches” I saw there. These are such simple ideas, but they add a special feeling to the learning environment.

How about addition facts on the stairs? The science vocabulary leads to the upper grades. Letters, numbers, shapes and so many skills could “step up” learning.


What a clever idea to use a real picture frame to display children’s artwork!


And you know how much kids love to look at themselves in a mirror. You could put a full-length mirror in each hall with a positive word or character trait.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Happy Valentine's Day! What a perfect way to start your morning today and every day! Write this "mantra" on a poster. The teacher reads the questions and the children respond in unison.

Morning Mantra

Teacher says: Boys and girls, what is my job today?

Children respond: Your job is to teach us and to love us.

Teacher says: Boys and girls, what is your job today?

Children respond: Our job is to learn and to love each other.


During the day if a child is behaving inappropriately stand near them and ask, “Are you doing your job? Show me the right thing to do.”

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


My grandson K.J. helped me write this song about buddies several years ago. I think it gives children some good strategies for dealing with bullies, and there are some extension activities that will reinforce standards.

Be a Buddy, NOT a Bully!
(Tune: “Harrigan”)
Give me a B – B.
Give me a U – U…D…D…Y…
What’s it spell? BUDDY!
I’m going to be a buddy.
I will never be a bully.
I’ll say NO to bullies!
That is what I’ll be.
I’ll be kind and help my friends.
I’ll protect them and defend.
A buddy, that’s ME!

What should you do if someone bullies you?
Ignore them or walk away.

What if they still bully you?
Tell them to STOP!

If they still bully you?
Get a friend to help you.

And if they still bully you?
Then tell an adult.

I’m going to be a buddy.
I will never be a bully.
I’ll say NO to bullies!
That is what I’ll be.
I’ll be kind and help my friends.
I’ll protect them and defend.
A buddy, that’s ME!

*Make a class book of the song by running off the lyrics as shown. Have the children close their eyes as you sing and get a picture in their brain. Let them choose which sentence they’d like to illustrate, and then put them together to make a book.

*Role play the steps in the song. Let children take turns being “bullies” and “buddies” and acting out what they should do.

*Make a book called “A Buddy Is…” where each child contributes a drawing of how they can be a buddy.

*Run off “Buddy Coupons” for children to distribute to friends who are kind to them. You could also have a “Buddy Board” where children write the names of buddies.

*Draw a T-chart on the board and let children suggest characteristics of buddies and bullies.

Monday, February 12, 2018


Several weeks ago at my seminar in New Orleans a teacher asked for some ideas to help children count the "teens."  I knew I had a song and activity, but I couldn't think of it at the time.  Taa daa!  I found it!

Tens and Ones (Ginger McCormick)

(Cadence – Children repeat each line.)
I don’t know but I’ve been told. (Repeat)
Tens are tall and ones are small.
First you count up all the tens.
Then add the ones to the end.

*Pick students to be tens and stand tall.
Pick students to be ones and sit criss-cross in front of the tens.
Count the tall students by tens.
Count the students sitting on the floor by one.
What’s the number?

Counting is a basic strand across math standards. There’s even research that suggests counting with pre-k children can build math concepts they will use later on in kindergarten and primary grades. To avoid rote counting without meaning, let TOUCH AND COUNT be the mantra you repeat and model over and over. Counting will also have more meaning if you tie it into exercise with one of these ideas.

*Older students can use these movement activities to skip count and learn multiplication facts.

Karate Chop Count
Feet out, knees bent, karate chop with your right hand and then your left as you count by ones.
*Do leg curls and chops as you count by 5’s to 100
*Kick front and back as you count by 10’s to 200.
*Wax on, wax off as you count by 100’s to 1000. 

*You can also karate chop spelling words and word wall words. Chop with right hand as you say a letter and then chop with the left hand as you say a letter. Hands folded together and bow as you say the word.

Shoelace Counting
Write numerals 1-20 on a cotton shoelace with a fabric marker. Slide a bead on the shoelace and move it up and down as you count.
*What’s one more than___? Two less than___?


Pump Up to 100
Pretend to hold weights as you count.
1-20 - bicep curls (Elbows in, pretend to hold weights in fists with palms up as you bring forearms up and down.)
21-40 - for overhead press (Fists face forwards as you start at your shoulders and push the weights overhead.)
41-60 – side raises (Elbows at 90% angles as you raise them out to the side.)
61-80 – upright rows (Fists together close to the body and raise elbows out and up until fists are at your heart.)
81-100 – frontal raises - (Fists together and arms stiff as you raise them in front of your body to eye level.)
Whew! (Wipe brow!!!)

*Let children get an imaginary jump rope and jump as they count to 100.

Dance and Count
Choose a different dance move for each ten as you count.
1-10 – Disco (Index finger up and down across body.)
11-20 – Hitchhike (Thumb out across body.)
21-30 – Swim (Make swimming motions.)
31-40 – Bollywood (One hand up in circular motion and one down.)
41-50 – Pony (Step from side to side.)
51-60 – Twist (Twist at waist.)
61-70 – Salsa (One arm bent up and other hand on elbow.)
71-80 – Monster (Arms out in front of you.)
81-90 – Bird (Flap your arms like a bird.)
91-100 – Do your own thing!