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Monday, December 31, 2018


One of the most powerful teaching strategies isn't something that you buy or plug in. Nor is it something you run off on the copy machine. It's the ability to ask GOOD questions that make children think. Here are some tips for challenging children’s thoughts and answers.

Open-ended – Ask open-ended questions, rather than “yes” or “no.”
Convergent questions have one answer, but divergent questions encourage students to make new connections and think outside the box.

Phrase Questions Clearly – Focus on one aspect at a time.

Acknowledge Responses - Avoid judging answers by repeating their response. “Good thinking!” “That’s close.” “I never thought about that before.” “Kiss your brain!”

How did you know that? Encourage children to “think out loud.” This will help peers develop higher thinking skills.

Probe – Extend students’ thinking by having them clarify an idea or support an opinion.

Give Time (Smile!) – Help children think about what they want to say and provide for individual differences by asking children to smile if they know the answer. Allow 3-5 seconds of think time.

Question Prompt Cards ??? CRITICAL THINKING CARDS
Download the attached question prompt cards. Glue to index cards, punch a hole in the upper left hand corners, and attach to a book ring. Color the edges of each card to indicate questions from simple to complex. Use to challenge children to think critically and creatively.

For more teaching tools check out WORKSHEET AVENGERS!

Sunday, December 30, 2018


Here are some tools children can keep in their desk for a quick review if you have a few minutes in the day. All the children will be actively engaged and the teacher can easily look around the room and assess responses.

Each child will need two index cards. Write “yes” on one in green and “no” on the other one in red. As you ask questions, children respond by holding up the card with their response. For example: “Our state is Arizona.” “Fish has the short /a/ sound.” “Blue and glue rhyme.” “Yesterday was Thursday.”

*Note! You can make the questions simple or complex depending on the ability of your students.

Sign Language  
Teach children sign language for “yes” (make a fist and nod it up and down) and “no” (extend middle and index finger from thumb and open and close. As you ask questions, children respond with the appropriate sign.

Pinch Cards
Cut construction paper or heavy paper into 8 ½ “ x 5 ½” rectangles. Down the left side write the numerals 0-10. Write the very same numerals on the reverse side. As the teacher calls out math problems the children pinch the correct answer and hold up their cards. The teacher can quickly glance around the room to check responses.


*Make pinch cards for words, numeral recognition 10-20, phonics, etc.

Check out WORKSHEET AVENGERS for more active learning ideas.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

"SIGN" INTO 2019!

Sign language is engaging, multi-sensory, quiet, and it’s FREE! Take a look at these ideas to help children learn letters, sight words, vocabulary, and more.
I    Sign Language!

Note! There are several free websites with sign language dictionaries where letters and words are demonstrated:

Alphabet Songs
Make the signs for the letters as you sing them in alphabet songs.

Sight Word Cues
Teach students the sign for each sight word to help them scaffold and make the connection.
*Teach children signs for new vocabulary words.

Spelling Words
Finger spell sight words and spelling words.

*Play a partner game where one student signs each letter in a word. The other student tries to identify the word.

Alphabet Book
Make a class alphabet book where your students sign the letters.


Classroom Management
Teach children simple commands for routines such as "sit down," "stand up," "pay attention," "no talking," etc.

Friday, December 28, 2018


This is a great tool for each child to make and USE in 2019.

Materials: pocket folder, copy paper with alphabet letters 

*Here’s a link where you can download the pages with letters:

Directions: Let each child decorate the outside of a pocket folder. Prepare pages for their dictionary by running off two letters on each page similar to the ones shown. Punch holes and insert in the pocket folder.

As new sight words, spelling words, and vocabulary words are introduced ask the children write them in their dictionaries.

*Challenge the children to make up sentences (oral or written) with the words.

*Ask children to illustrate words or find magazine pictures that match the words.

*Play “mystery word” where you give clues about words. 
 Can you find a word that starts with /m/ and ends with /d/? 
 Can you find a word that is the opposite of “fast”? 

*Play the “rhyme” game. 
 Can you find a word that rhymes with “bike”? 
 Can you find a word that rhymes with “log” and is a pet? 

*How many one letter words can you find? How many two letter words? Three letter words? 

*Ask children to clap out the syllables in words. 

*Can they match up words in their dictionaries with words in the classroom? 

*Sort words that refer to people, things we do, describing words, etc. 

*Have children find a word that starts with each letter in their name. 

Let the children take home their dictionaries and do activities with their parents.

Thursday, December 27, 2018


Here are some simple teaching tools from jumbo craft sticks.

Comprehension Sticks
Write “Who?” “What?” “Where?” “When?” “Why?” on sticks and insert them in a sock. Throw the sock over your shoulder before reading a book to prompt the children to be active listeners. After reading the story, let children choose a stick and tell that part.

*You could also write “author, illustrator, title, beginning, middle, end” or “characters, setting, problem, resolution.”


Punctuation Sticks
Draw a period, exclamation point, and question mark on the end of jumbo craft sticks. Children take turns choosing a stick and placing it at the end of a sentence as friends read with appropriate expression.

Fiddle Stick
Each child will need a jumbo craft stick and a 20” piece of string.
Tie one end of the string to the middle of the craft stick. (Put a piece of tape on it to secure it.) Children can calm down and release wiggles by winding up the string and then unwinding it.

Check out WORKSHEET AVENGERS for creative things to do instead of worksheets.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018


Tis’ the day after Christmas and the house is a mess.
There’s trash to clean up and thank you’s to address.
There are cookies and candy you can’t leave alone,
And the kids are fighting in a rather loud tone.
The weather is frightful – you can’t get outside.
You’d like to get under the covers and hide.
But, you are a teacher, no need to fear.
It’s time to get ready for the new year.
Did you think that all your presents were done?
I’ve got ideas to cheer everyone.
Every day I’ll post new activities for you.
My things are meaningful and simple to do.
And I’ll exclaim over the earth with a very large roar,
Sing and play in 2019 and SHUT YOUR DOOR!

This is one of my favorite books because it doesn’t require any special tools or materials. It can be used to replace a worksheet for almost any skill or concept that you want to reinforce.

Directions: Fold two sheets of paper in half. Make tears (or snips) about a thumbnail apart down the fold. Bend one tab forward, then the next backward, and so on to bind the pages together.

Children can use this for a letter book by drawing pictures, writing words, or cutting out pictures of things that start with a beginning sound, diagraph, vowel, etc.
Number Book
Have children write numbers and then make that many objects.
*Write a number and then show different ways to make that number.
*Use as a shape book where children walk around the room and draw shapes they see.
Weekly Spelling Word Journal
Monday – write a word on each page
Tuesday – write the definition of each word
Wednesday – illustrate or cut out a picture for each word
Thursday – write a sentence using each word
Write the Room
Children walk around the room and write all the words they can read.
Can they find a word for each letter of the alphabet?

Can they find nouns?  Adjectives?  Seasonal words?
Concept Book
Coordinate the book with a unit, theme, or holiday. For example, when studying about dinosaurs have them make a book about dinosaurs. When focusing on social skills ask them to make a book called “How to Be a Friend.” For January they could make a book of “My Goals for 2019.”
Hint! For younger children make this book with one sheet of paper.

*Fold paper lengthwise to make a tall book.
*Cut a piece of paper in half to make a small book.

*Use a colored sheet of paper on the outside and a white sheet on the inside.

Check out WORKSHEET AVENGERS for over 150 things you can do instead of a worksheet.


Friday, December 21, 2018


When I was a little girl I got ONE thing for Christmas. Seriously! One thing! And I was happy. I usually got a baby doll and I named her and I LOVED her. We put out popcorn and a beer for Santa. (My dad had a sense of humor and we didn’t know any better. I was probably in third grade before I realized that Santa liked milk and cookies.) We would hang up one of my dad’s socks and in the morning we’d find a few nuts, an orange, and a candy cane in it.

Those were the days before television and advertisements. Our family had one bathroom and one car for six people and somehow it worked. We never went out to eat because there were no fast food restaurants. There were no books or cartoons about Santa, so my vision of him was created from my imagination and “The Night before Christmas.”

Was I na├»ve? I didn’t know I was suppose to get tons of presents and leave out milk instead of beer. Ignorance really was bliss because I have such sweet memories. It’s also called selective nostalgia because I only remember the good things. I try to forget the family feuds and some of my disappointments. It does no good to recall the negative things.

That might be the secret to true happiness this holiday season. Forgive and forget the unkind words and hopes unfulfilled. Focus on the positive and things that you have in your control. Surround yourself with people you love, and ignore the ones you are not too crazy about.

I send you peace, love, joy, and hope!!!

Merry! Merry! Happy! Happy!

Now, I'm going to turn off my computer and make some holly jollies.  I'll be back December 26th.  Ho!  Ho!  Ho!

Thursday, December 20, 2018


Are you on the NICE LIST this year?  Well, if you are you, might want to ask Santa to give you a trip one of these conferences!

January 12-13, 2019, California Kindergarten Association Conference-
       Santa Clara, CA       

January 14-15, 2019, Ohio State Conference for Kindergarten Teachers 

       Columbus, OH     

Jan 28-29, 2019, Arkansas Kindergarten Teacher Conference-
       Little Rock, AR       

 February 4-5, 2019, Pennsylvania Kindergarten Teachers Conference

       Harrisburg, PA       

February 25-26, 2019, New Jersey Kindergarten Teachers Conference-
       Atlantic City, NJ       


March 1-2, 2019, Southern California Kindergarten Conference-
       Pasadena, CA

 March 15, 2019,vaaeyc 63rd Annual Conference

       Roanoke, VA  

Wednesday, December 19, 2018


LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE DAY isn’t until Friday, but keeping optimistic is something that teachers struggle with every day – especially this time of year!

Many of you might have students who are a little like Eeyore. “Woe is me…nobody likes me…it’s going to be a bad day…” Unfortunately, some of these children get a lot of attention from their parents for their negative attitudes.

But, rather than focusing on a pessimistic outlook, I’m going to focus on being optimistic today. This Winnie the Pooh cartoon is one of my favorites because for some children, being with YOU every day is the best thing that can happen to them.

How can you help your students LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE?

First, have a class discussion about what it means to look on the bright side. Accept their responses without judging. Ask them for examples of what it means to be optimistic. What does it mean to be pessimistic? What kind of friends do you like to be around?
*Make a T-chart of optimistic and pessimistic behaviors.

Here are three simple behaviors that will encourage children to look on the bright side.

Change I CAN’T to I CAN! We are AmeriCANS and so we always need to say I CAN! Teach children this little chant to say to themselves when they have a difficult task or are trying something new.

I Think I Can
(Tune:  "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.
If I try with all my might, in time I'll get it right.
I think I can are words I like to say.

Look around at all the things you have to be grateful for each day. Pencils, books, friends, trees, food, families... If you focus on what you do have then you won’t have time to worry about what you don’t have. Start each day by passing around a smiley face puppet and asking each child to name something that they are thankful for or happy about.

Making mistakes is an important part of the “hidden curriculum” that is not in your state standards. If children learn to experience failure in the classroom, they will be much better equipped to handle it in real life and the work force. Losing a game, missing a word when you read, or running down the hall are all opportunities where children can learn and be challenged to try something different the next time. 

I make mistakes, you make mistakes, everybody makes mistakes, and that’s O.K. 

*As a teacher, model making mistakes and then saying, “I’m sorry.” Model how to clean up your mistakes. Model how to say, “Next time I will….” 

*Let children role play making mistakes. 

*Read THE BEAUTIFUL OOPS! by Barney Saltzberg.

*Make a class booked called “Mistakes Are O.K.” where children write, draw, or dictate mistakes they make and how they can do better the next time.

It's O.K. to Make Mistakes
(Tune: “This Old Man”)
It’s O.K. to make mistakes
Mistakes are always O.K. to make.
You can say, “Ooops!” and try it again.
It will be fine in the end.

Moms and dads, teachers, too,
We all make mistakes, it’s true.
Say, “Oh, well!” and try something new.
Use mistakes to learn what to do.

*Note! These activities might be a great way to start 2019!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


Yes, it really is Bake Cookies Day, but its fun to bake cookies any day of the year. Here’s what says about today:

'Ya gotta just love Bake Cookies Day......... 

..... Christmas is for Christians 

..... Hanukkah is just for Jews 
.... Ramadan is for those of Islamic descent 

..... Kwanzaa is for those of African origin 

..... Native American Day is for American Indians

But, Bake Cookies Day is for EVERYONE! 


Play Dough 

Put cookie cutters and play dough on a cookie sheet. Add a rolling pin (cylinder block), scissors, and plastic utensils.

Paper Ornaments 
Put some cookie cutters, scissors, glue, and the scrap box out on a table. Let children trace around the cookie cutters, cut out their paper cookies, and then decorate with stickers or glitter pens. Punch a hole, tie on a string, and decorate the tree. 

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 17, 2018


December 21st is known as the winter solstice or the first day of winter. It is the shortest day and longest night of the year. Although your students will probably have sugar plums dancing in their heads this week, you might want to add a touch of science to your lesson plans with these ideas.

Science – Ask your students what causes winter. (Accept their answers without judging.) Have one child pretend to be the sun and stand in the middle of the circle. Use a globe to demonstrate how the earth rotates around the sun. It takes 365 days or one year for the earth to go all around the sun. Demonstrate how the earth tilts on its axis away from the sun to cause winter. Why? What happens when the earth tilts toward the sun? 

Signs of Winter – Brainstorm signs of winter. What happens to the temperature in winter? What happens to the plants? What happens to animals?

Vocabulary – Make an attribute web of winter words. Include winter clothing, sports, holidays, etc.

Animals Adapt – How do animals adapt in the winter? What animals hibernate? 
What animals migrate?

Habitats – Some habitats are very cold in the winter with ice and snow. Other habitats are warmer in the winter. Use a map of the United States and have children identify their state. Do they have ice and snow in the winter? Can they find a state where it’s warm and sunny in the winter? What do they think causes the difference?

Internet Search – Visit a weather site, such as, to compare regional weather.

Nature Walk – Go on a nature walk and look for signs of winter. Let each child take a digital photograph of a sign of winter. Put these together to make a class collage.

Trees – Explain that evergreen trees stay green all winter. Deciduous trees lose their leaves in the winter. Can they find evergreen and deciduous trees on the playground? Can they find them in their yard at home?

Make a Book – Staple two sheets of paper and let children use descriptive writing to make a book called “Winter Is…”

Creative Writing – Invite children to write a story about “Old Man Winter.” I found this great writing paper free at

Read a Book – What’s your favorite winter book to read to your class?
                       Wishing you happy winter days!!!