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Wednesday, July 31, 2019


This August will be the 50th anniversary of my career as a teacher. Can you believe it? I started teaching at Montclair Elementary in1969. I remember that I was terrified about my first day. My mother smiled and said, “Oh, honey, just love them and be sweet to them.” That was some of the best advice then, now, and forever!

It used to be so much more fun to be a teacher. It’s more difficult now because of academic pressure, data, test scores, and lack of support from parents. I worry about you because it seems so many of you are getting “beat up” by evaluations and unrealistic demands. Think of me as your “grandmother consultant” who hugs you and tells you that you’re doing a great job...BECAUSE YOU ARE!

A friend who taught with me over 40 years ago visited recently and said, “I remember how you would take the most pitiful little child and write on their hand: YOU ARE AMAZING AND WONDERFUL! Or, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!  Or, YOU ARE SPECIAL! She said, “Why did you do that?” My response was, for once in their lives, I wanted them to feel that way. I wanted them to know that someone believed in them. (Now they’d probably throw me in jail for writing on a child’s hand, but you get the point.)


Sometimes you just have to shut your door and do what’s best for your children. Do what my momma said, “Love them and be sweet to them!”


(Tune: “Simple Gifts”)
Jean Feldman and Hollynd Feldman Karapetkova

Tis’ you who cares,
And tis’ you who shares.
Tis’ you who teaches
Children everywhere.
Tis’ you who inspires,
Tis’ you who molds.
You help children’s gifts
And dreams unfold.

Tis’ you our teachers
For some child you’re the
Only one who cares.
And when you come at last
To the end of your days,
I have touched a life
Is what you can say.

It’s not the test scores.
It’s not the workbooks.
Into the hopeful eyes
Of each child you must look.
You plant the seeds of learning
With smiles and grace.
Each day you make the world
A better place.

Tis’ you our teachers
For some child you’re the
Only one who cares.
And when you come at last
To the end of your days,
I have touched a life
Is what you can say.


Administrators rarely come to my workshops. (Gee, I wonder why???) Here’s some advice I’d like to give them. What would you add to this list?


1. Let your teachers TEACH. Give them autonomy to do their jobs and TRUST them to do what’s best for their students.

2. Be a real person and a good model for your teachers. Visit each classroom and do something FUN by reading a book, teaching a song, telling a joke, or doing a magic trick.

3. Support your teachers. Be careful not to let a single parent’s request sway what’s best for their child and the other children in the classroom.

4. Believe in the WHOLE child. A test score is a number. “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” And, sometimes, you can’t see that wonderful little person because of “data.”

5. The word “rigor” is not appropriate when talking about instruction for young children. The world keeps changing, but children are still children. They don’t all grow up in the same way at the same time, and they should not be expected to accomplish skills according to some master plan.

6. Please don’t give teachers any more paperwork. Assessment and reports are driving instruction and consuming their day.

7. Teaching is a video not a snap shot. Is it fair to walk in a classroom, observe for 10 minutes, and then make negative comments to the teacher? Compliment teachers for what they are doing well. Give positive suggestions instead of critical remarks.

8. Listen, listen, listen to your teachers. Problem-solve, ask for their input, and collaborate on goals and issues. Instead of TELLING them, ask for their help and suggestions.

9. Don’t take away their JOY! If the children are engaged and enjoying an activity, do you have to ruin it by requiring “observable evidence”? Let it be! It’s O.K. to read a book without dissecting it with questions about the author’s purpose. It’s O.K. to take a walk outside to enjoy the peace and beauty of nature. It’s fine to sing a song or use a brain break to make children smile.

10. Remember that for some of your students “school” is as good as it’s going to get for them. You never know what’s going on at home, and school should be a wonderful world where they feel accepted, successful, and excited about learning!

O.K. I’M THROUGH PREACHING!!! Tomorrow will be ACTIVE AUGUST with creative strategies to help kids learn as they move.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019


I’ll get to the POINT! Pointers are a fun way to engage students’ attention. Make some of these before the school year begins and you can pull them out of your “bag of tricks” when needed.

What? craft sticks, chop sticks, googly eyes, fake jewels and fingernails, E6000 (or other craft glue)

Why? Children love anything novel and different. These pointers just add some “hands-on” to the task at hand.

When? Small group, independent

How? Take a look at the list below and choose your favorite.

*Use to track print from left to right.

*Identify key details in a picture.

*Point out letters, words, punctuation, etc. in print.

*Touch shapes, numbers, etc.

*Space between words with pointers.

Magic wand – dip the end of a chopstick in glue and roll in glitter

Finger nail
– glue a fake fingernail to a craft stick

I Spy – glue a googly eye to a craft stick

Jewel – glue a fake jewel to a craft stick

Witches’ finger – great fun

Magnifying glass - pipe cleaner formed in a circle


Swizzle stick – buy these at a dollar store

Pretzel stick – point and then eat

Seasonal – glue small seasonal toys or stickers to craft sticks or purchase seasonal pencils

Bugles - point, read, and eat!!!
Giant Pointers

Glue a toy to the end of a cardboard pants hanger or decorate a butterfly net.

Smart Center

This was one of those simple, yet clever ideas that a teacher shared years ago. She said she had a center called the "smart center" with an old pair of glasses and a hand pointer. Children wore the glasses and walked around the room and pointed to words, shapes, colors, letters, etc. to show how "smart" they were. The only rule was you had to use a whisper voice. The teacher who shared this said the kids LOVED this center. She said nobody paid any attention to them, but they thought they were smart just the same!


Monday, July 29, 2019


You can have a "cup" of learning fun with a box of bathroom cups. These cups are not only quiet to play with, but they develop small motor skills and eye-hand coordination.

Letter Cups 

What? bathroom cups, permanent marker

Why? sight words, letters, phonics

When? small group, centers, independent

How? Write letters on the sides of the cups. Children can put these in alphabetical order or make words with the cups.
(I put the uppercase letter on one side and the lowercase letter on the side.)

*Trace around the bottom of a cup and write uppercase letters in the circles. Have children match cups with lowercase letters.
*Glue pictures to cups and use them to match beginning sounds, ending sounds, vowels, etc.
*Put letters together to make spelling words and word wall words. As a follow-up ask children to write the words.
*Write words on cups. Children can arrange them to make simple sentences.

*Write word families on cups. Children can read the words as they stack the rimes.

*Glue pictures of opposites or write synonyms on cups to make a matching game.

*Write compound words (one word on each cup) and have children stack them and say the word. Write the compound words as an extension activity.

Hint! Store the cups in an empty Pringle's can.

Math Cups

What? bathroom cups, permanent marker

Why? numbers, counting, math facts

When? small group, centers, independent

How? Write numbers with a permanent marker on the sides of the cups.

*Mix up the cups. Ask the children to put the cups in order.

*Trace around the bottom of one cup 20 times on a file folder as shown. Write the numerals in sequential order from top to bottom and left to right in the circles. Children take the cups and match them up to the appropriate circle on the file folder. Next, sweep the cups off and try to stack them up vertically from 1-20.
*Write addition and subtraction facts on the sides of the cups. Write the answer inside on a dot sticker. Children can solve the problem and then check by looking inside the cup.


*Make math cups with multiples so children can practice counting by 2's, 5’s, 10’s, and so forth.

Sunday, July 28, 2019


“Ownership” is important to children. They like their own space and materials. Yes, you can buy clipboards, but don’t you think that children will find it more meaningful if they get to decorate their very own clipboard.

Note!When I made things like this for my class I would also remind them that I made it special – just for them! They seemed to take pride in this.

What? 9” x 12” piece of corrugated cardboard, 1” butterfly clip

Why? writing, science observations, sight words, surveys

When? Learning center, independent, partner work

How? Attach a butterfly clip, insert paper, and let the writing begin!

Use the clip boards for:

Observations  (weather, nature walk, clouds, etc.)

Surveys (favorite food, ice cream, animal, sports team, etc.)

Write the room  (2 syllable words, seasonal words, nouns, shapes, letters, etc.)

Read the room (check off words they find, shapes, letters)

Note taking (write or draw pictures as they listen to a book or watch a video)

Interviews  (parents, grandparents, friends)

What I learned (record what they learn as you do a unit of study)

And here's a LIST of lists children can make on clipboards.

     List of what they are thankful for.

     List of their favorite books, songs.

     List of their favorite foods.

     List of their favorite subjects at school.

     List of their favorite animals/pets.

     List of their favorite sports or games.

     List of what they can do if they finish their work early.

     List of things that make them happy.

     List of how to be a buddy/friend.

     List of “cheers” and “goals.”


Wipe Off Boards
Many lumber companies will cut shower board into 9” x 12” pieces that you can use like clipboards.


Hint! Plastic plates or laminated white card stock are great substitutes for white boards.

Hint! For morning work at the beginning of the school year a teacher told me that she had her children use clipboards to settle down in the morning. Initially, she asked them to practice making shapes each morning. Then she started to play my “Chant and Write” song to work on numerals. Later they listened to alphabet songs and practiced writing letters of the alphabet.

Saturday, July 27, 2019


Let’s make a few bottles for the science center today. If you have children of your own, they will totally get “into” making these bottles. They are inexpensive, simple to make, and are a great way to model “recycling.” Just remember to glue the lids on (E6000) because the children might be tempted to do a little too much exploration!!

Note! These bottles will also come in handy if you have a child that who stressed or anxious. Just hand them a bottle and they will become engaged looking at the bottle and moving it around.

What? plastic bottles, E6000 (or super glue), common materials below

Why? observing, experimenting, predicting, focusing

When? Independent exploration

How? Take a look at the ingredients in the bottles below. What have you got in your kitchen or around your house? Well, what are you waiting for? Get busy and make some of these or come up with your own creations.

Mindful Bottle

Materials: plastic bottle, old crayons, scissors

Directions: Take the paper off the old crayons. Make crayon shavings by scraping the side of the scissors. Put the crayon shavings in the bottle and then fill with water. Secure the top with glue. Turn the bottle upside down and then observe as the crayon shavings float around.

Party Bottle

Materials: clear corn syrup, food coloring, sequins or party confetti
Directions: Put about 1/2 cup of corn syrup in the bottle. Add a few drops of food coloring and a spoonful of confetti. Roll the bottle around to coat the sides and watch the confetti move around.

*Make seasonal bottles by adding plastic spiders at Halloween or small heart erasers for Valentine’s Day.

Muddy Water Bottle

Materials: plastic bottle, dirt, water
Directions: Put ½ cup of dirt in the bottom of the bottle. Fill 2/3 full with water.

Glue on the lid. Children can shake up the bottle and observe the dirt as it settles to the bottom.

Beach Bottle

Materials: plastic bottle, sand, blue food coloring, small shells, fun foam
Directions: Put ¾ cup of sand in the bottom of the bottle. (Rinse the sand out until the water is clear.) Fill the bottle almost to the top with water. Add a drop of blue food coloring and the shells. Cut fish or other small sea creatures out of fun foam.

Wave Bottle

Materials: plastic bottle, food coloring, baby oil or vegetable oil

Directions: Fill the bottle 2/3 full with water. Add several drops of food coloring. Fill the bottle to the top with the oil, and then glue on the lid. Slowly move the bottle on its side to create waves. Shake the bottle up and then observe as the oil and water separate.

Bubble Bottle

Materials: plastic bottle, dish detergent, food coloring
Directions: Put ½ cup of water in the bottle. Add a drop of detergent and a drop of food coloring. Glue on the lid. Shake up the bottle and observe.

What happens to the bubbles if the bottle sits for a while?

Variations: Use shampoo and different types of detergent to make bubble bottles. Which one makes the most bubbles?

I Spy Bottle

Materials: plastic bottle, sand, salt, or rice, 5-10 small toys or objects (crayon, eraser, hair bow, penny, counting bear, etc.)
Directions: Fill the bottle 2/3 full with sand or salt. Drop the toys and other items into the bottle and glue on the lid. Shake to hide the objects. How many things can the children “spy” in the bottle? Have them draw pictures or write down all the objects that they see.

More! Make holiday bottles with Halloween toys, conversation hearts, spring things, etc.

*Use a larger plastic bottle (such as cheese balls or pretzels come in) and fill it with confetti or Styrofoam packing. Insert magnetic letters. Children write the that they find in the bottle.

Friday, July 26, 2019


You definitely want a stinky cheese game in your hip pocket when school begins. This game is the perfect way to nurture social skills and the executive function (self-regulation, task initiation and completion). Children will learn to take turns and practice “losing.” (Your silly reaction to “stinky cheese” will encourage the children to laugh along with you.

Stinky Cheese

What? lunch bag, yellow construction paper or poster board, marker

*Hint! An empty cheese cracker box will make a more durable container for the game.

Why? sight words, fluency phrases, letters, math facts, shapes, etc.


When? Large group or small group

How? Cut cheese slices out of poster board or construction paper using the pattern. Write letters, words, numbers, etc. or any skill you want to reinforce on the cheese slices. On two slices write “Stinky Cheese!” Place the cheese slices in the 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.

Hint! If children can’t identify what is on their cheese slice invite them to “phone a friend” (ask a friend) or “ask the audience” (ask the group).

Role Model

Some children need to learn how to “lose.” Explain that when something doesn’t go your way you just say, “OH, WELL!” as you open your palms and shrug your shoulders. Have children practice saying, “Oh, well!” when they lose.

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

Thursday, July 25, 2019


If you’ve never made my Letter Bears you are going to be thankful when school starts if you make them. They are a perfect way to transition children and reinforce skills at the same time.

What? construction paper or colored card stock, scissors, markers

Why? letters, colors, numbers, shapes, sight words

When? Large group transitions, dismissal

How? Cut 26 bears out of the construction paper. Write upper and lowercase letters on all the bears. Mix up the bears and then sing this song to the tune of “Twinkle Little Star” as the letters are revealed:

     Dd bear, Dd bear, what do you see?
     I see Kk bear looking at me.
     Kk bear, Kk bear, what do you see…

Focus children’s attention while they settle down for a story or lesson with the letter bears.

*Use the bears as a transition activity. Dismiss children to line up, wash their hands, etc. when the letter that their name starts with appears.

*At the beginning of the school year make bears with the children's names. For younger children use their names and photos.

*For younger children make color bears or shape bears.
*Use the bears to reinforce other skills, such as the numerals 10-20 or sight words.
*Hide the bears around the classroom or playground for the children to find and identify.

*Each month make a similar game using seasonal cutouts. Adapt to different skills you are working on each month.

Here's a link where you can download the bear pattern.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019


There will be transition times in every school day when you will need a bag of tricks to entertain the children. If you don’t direct children’s attention in a positive way they will become restless and troublesome. With this juke box you will always have a song or rhyme handy when you have a few extra minutes or can’t think of anything to do.

Juke Box

What? gift bag, poster board or fun foam, marker, scissors

Why? focus children’s attention, oral language, social skills

When? Transitions, in between times, preparing for group activities

How? Decorate the gift bag with the words “Juke Box.” To make CDs cut 4” circles out of fun foam or heavy cardboard. Write words to songs, finger plays, rhymes, and chants on the CDs and place them in the “juke box.” When you’ve got a few extra minutes pretend to give a child a quarter. Tell them to put it in the juke box and pull out a song or rhyme.

Hint! Invite that child to lead the class in the song or poem.

Song Pops

Cut 3" circles out of card stock or heavy paper. Write song titles on the circles and glue to craft sticks to make "song pops." Place in a can and when you need to wiggle and smile pull out a song pop and sing and dance!


Tide Tricks

Use an empty box or jug from Tide detergent. Keep simple games, stories, play dough, puzzles, blank books, etc. in it for when you need something to “tide” children over to the next activity.


Tuesday, July 23, 2019


Have you ever wanted to grab someone’s cell phone and throw it out the window? So have I! Cell phones can be a nuisance, but they call also be a “rabbit trap” for children to learn.

Giant Cell Phone

What? shower curtain liner, permanent marker, fly swatter

Why? numeral recognition, letter recognition, phone numbers, math concepts

When? Large group, small group, independent

How? Cut the shower curtain liner in half lengthwise. Make a template (cardboard pattern) for the keys so they will all be the same.

Use the attached pattern to draw the cell phone.

*Type out phone numbers with the fly swatter.

*Type bus numbers or lunchroom numbers.

*Throw a beanbag and identify the number

*Throw a beanbag and do that many jumping jacks.

*Throw two beanbags and add up the numbers.

*Play Twister by putting hands and feet on different numbers.

*Add up the numbers for different sight words.

*Let children make up their own games.

Personal Cell Phones

Children will also enjoy having their own cell phone. 


What? copies of the cell phone, heavy paper, scissors, markers, glue

Why? numeral recognition, counting, math facts, phone numbers, phonics, names, sight words

When? Small group, transition times

How? Make copies of the attached cell phone. Have the children cut out the front of the phone. Next, let them trace around the back of the phone on heavy paper and cut it out. Glue the front of the cell phone to the back. Decorate the back with markers.

Note! If your copy machine will work with card stock you can copy the pattern on that.

Hint! Use a hole punch to make a viewfinder so they can take pictures with their phones. They can take pictures of shapes, words, letters, nouns, tools, friends, and so forth.

*Call out letters or numbers for children to identify.

*Type out phone numbers or zip codes.

*Spell words. How much is a word worth?

*Use for math facts or number stories.

*Teach children how to type 911 in emergencies.

*Let children make up their own learning activities to do with their phones.

Monday, July 22, 2019


Tired of giving out candy and stickers? Here are some inexpensive rewards to use for special treats! Make the sticks or gift cards and you’ll be all set when school starts again.

What? jumbo craft sticks, Sharpie markers, plastic cup

Why? non-tangible rewards

When? To celebrate a special accomplishment, good behavior, kindness, etc.

How? Choose activities that you think would work best for your students from the list below. Write these on jumbo craft sticks with a permanent Sharpie and then put the sticks in a cup. Pretend like children are “winning” something when they draw a stick from the can.

Choose a song and lead the class.

Eat lunch with your teacher or a special friend.

Be excused from a homework assignment.

Choose an indoor game to play.

Select the book for story time.

Sit by a favorite person all day.

15 minutes of free time.

Help the teacher do a special job.

Decorate the bulletin board or door.

Sit at the teacher’s desk.

Take off your shoes.

Listen to an IPod or headset while you work.

Take a class game or book home for the night.

Chew sugar free gum.

Be first in line for lunch

Use the teacher’s stamps, pens, or markers.

Choose a board game and play it with a friend.

Hand out supplies.

Be leader of a class game.

Be excused from a written assignment.

Play games on the computer for 10 minutes.

Visit another class in the school.

Work with a friend.

Be a helper in the office, lunchroom, or in another classroom.

Read a story to the principal or another class.

Have the teacher call your parents to tell them what a great kid you are!

Take a note to the principal about what a great kid you are.

Make something at the art center.

Have your work displayed in the hall or on the classroom door.

One special wish!

Gift Cards

What? plastic gift cards or cardboard, markers, gift bag

How? Save plastic gift cards and hotel room keys and cover them with paper. (You can also cut cardboard into 2” x 3 ½” rectangles). Write non-tangible rewards on these and place them in a small gift bag. Let children choose a “gift card” for a reward.

Note! Let your students suggest activities that they would like for rewards.

Sunday, July 21, 2019


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 skills.

Letter Plates

What? plastic plates, play dough, permanent marker

Why? small motor skills, letters, sounds, numbers, shapes

When? Learning center

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.

Note! 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. 


*Challenge them to make different combinations of that number?

Shape Plates

You can also make shape plates for the children to reproduce.


*Can they draw the shape with paper and pencil after they make it?

Saturday, July 20, 2019


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.

What? copies of reading calendars for each month

Why? home/school connection, love of reading

When? Monthly

How? Run off these monthly reading calendars so you’ll be all set for the year. Each month send one home to encourage families to read with their children.

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

Hint! 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!”

Monthly Activity Calendars

I also have free downloads for monthly activity calendars that would be fantastic “homework” for pre-k and k. One teacher suggested asking parents to do at least 10 and return it by the end of the month. Whether the parents choose to participate or not, you have to TRY! And if one parent sings a song, reads a book, or plays a game with their child because of you – that’s a good thing!!!