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Saturday, August 31, 2019


Aarr! Yo ho, matey! Are you working on lesson plans for September this weekend?  Here are some ideas for Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19th.  It's got to be one of the "silliest" and most fun days ever!


According to the founders of Talk Like a Pirate Day, “Silliness is the holiday’s best selling point. And it’s fun!” There are many troubles and a great deal of seriousness in the adult world, but the classroom needs a little fun as well. Although a week from Thursday is the official day, I wanted to share a few ideas with you early so you could include them in your lesson plans. (You’ll even notice that I integrated some Common Core Standards!)

Pirate Read – Reread poems and big books by talking out of the side of your mouth like a pirate.

Pirate Song – Tune: “Yankee Doodle”
I’m a pirate. That I be!
I sail my ship upon the sea.
I stay up late – til half past three.
And have a peg below my knee.
Yo ho ho ho
Let’s sail away
Aarrr! Matey! Is what I say.
A treasure I will hide today
And walk the plank another day.

Note! I adapted this song from one posted on

Creative Writing – What would you do if you were a pirate? Where would sail on a pirate ship? What would you like to find in a treasure chest?

Pirate Cheer – Put one hand over your eye to make a patch. Talk out of the side of your mouth as you say, “Aarr! Way to go, matey!”

Parrot Cheer – Put your hands in your armpits to make wings and then flap them as you squawk, “You did a good job! You did a good job!”

Pirate Maps – Cut the bottom off lunch bags and then cut down one side and you’ll have a big rectangle. Children can draw a treasure map with markers or crayons. Squash up the paper and roll it around in your hands to give it a vintage look.

*Older children could write stories about their treasure hunt on the back of the map. Younger children could dictate a story.

*Add a compass map and introduce North, South, East, and West.

*Have children make maps of the playground.

Mustache – Cut mustaches out of construction paper and tape them under your nose. (This would just be optional, but what little kid wouldn’t want a mustache?)


Eye Patch – Cut an oblong shape out of construction paper, fold it in half, and glue it over a 30 piece of string.

Hook – Cut hooks out of cardboard and let children cover them with aluminum foil. Insert the end of the hook in a cup you can insert over your hand.

Hunting for Coins – Write letters of the alphabet on poker chips with a permanent marker. (You can buy poker chips at most dollar stores.) Hide these on the playground or in the classroom. When children find the coins they can name the letter or think of a word that starts with that sound.
(You could also write numerals, math facts, or words on the poker chips.)


Vocabulary – Introduce pirate vocabulary that you can actually use in the classroom on September 19th.
Ahoy = hello
Avast = stop and pay attention
Matey = friend
Disembark = leave
Embark = enter, get started
Foul = something turned bad
Grog = drink
Weigh anchor = prepare to leave
Aye = yes
Nay = no

Parts of a Ship – Relate these to places in the classroom with labels.
Starboard = right
Port = left
Stern = back
Bow = front

Pirate Flags – Let children design their own pirate flags. These can be done with crayons on paper, or, better yet, cut an old sheet into rectangles children can draw on with markers.

Sharing the Booty - Cut pirate chests out of construction paper and write numerals on them. Let children use the poker chips to make appropriate sets or do addition and subtraction problems.

Walk the Plank – Children can practice balancing by walking forwards and backwards on the plank. (To make a plank put a piece of masking tape on the floor or draw a plank outside on the sidewalk with chalk.)

Pirate Snack – How about some fish crackers in an ice cream cone? After they eat the crackers they can eat the cone.
*You could also serve oyster crackers, Pirate Booty, or grog (juice).


Friday, August 30, 2019


One of the best ways to make September memorable is to celebrate some special days. Over the next few days I'll share how to take some crazy national holidays and turn them into learning opportunities with songs, games, and crafts. Who would have thought that there was a National Bubble Gum Day or Play Dough Day? Get ready for a GOOD TIME! 




Thursday, August 29, 2019


If you are college football fans like we are, this weekend is like Christmas.  We can hardly wait for the first kick off!  Football gives us a distraction from the world's woes and it gives us something to cheer for and look forward to each weekend. Football can also be a “kick off” for teaching some skills in your classroom.

College Goals

It’s never too early to plant seeds of attending college in your students. Give them a dream and a goal! One school I visited displayed pennants of the schools where the teachers graduated from in the front hall.

*Have the children brainstorm all the colleges and universities in your area. Talk about why it is important to go to college.

*Encourage your students to think about where they would like to go to college. Give them paper shaped like pennants to decorate with their college dream.

Let children do surveys of favorite college teams. 
Graph favorite teams.
Predict who will win the game. Who was right? Who was wrong?
Predict what the score will be. Who was closest?

*Let children choose a favorite player and write their number on a jersey. How many math facts can they think of to equal that number?

Social Studies
Use a map of the United States and locate where games will be played. 

Internet Search
Look up team mascots and colors. Listen to college fight songs. Do exercises to fight songs.

Cut pictures of players out of the newspaper or sports magazines. Challenge children to write creative stories about favorite players. They could also write letters to favorite players.

*Make stick puppets from favorite players' photos.

Guest Readers
Invite a local high school football team and cheerleading squad to visit your school to read books. There’s nothing more motivating to a young child than to see someone in a uniform model how “cool” it is to read!

Team Mascots 
This game can be adapted to any school mascot, action hero, or seasonal character. Since I graduated from the University of Georgia, UGA was my first choice. This is a quick, simple game that can be played with any age level or any skill that needs to be reinforced. It’s the perfect game if you’ve got a few minutes before lunch or a few minutes at the end of the day.


WHY? shapes, colors, letters, words, numerals, math facts, etc. 
WHAT? flash cards, picture of a favorite school mascot
HOW? Have children sit in a circle and encourage them to identify the information on the flash cards as you place them on the floor. Tell the children to turn around and hide their eyes. Take “UGA” and slip it under one of the flash cards. The children turn back around and raise their hand if they think they know where UGA is hiding. One at a time, have children call out a word, letter, shape, etc., and then look under that card. The game continues until a child finds UGA. That child may then be “it” and hide the mascot.

*Use a pocket chart to play this game. Arrange the flash cards in the pocket chart and then hide the mascot under one of the cards as the children hide their eyes.

More? Make a concentration game using various college mascots.
Make a matching game where children match mascots to college names.
What characteristics do you need to dress up and be a school mascot?
Have children write which mascot they would like to be and why.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019


When Kalina visited this summer she made illustrations for a song called "I Had a Bird."  It's an old song that is still "catchy" today. My webmaster turned her animals into a YouTube video that I hope your children will enjoy. 

I Had a Bird
(Make signs for the animals as you sing.)

I had a bird, and the bird pleased me.
I fed my bird by yonder tree.
Bird went, “Tweedle dee dee.” (Open and close index finger and thumb by mouth.)

Cat - "meow, meow" (Pretend to stroke whiskers.)
Dog – “woof-woof” (Pretend to call your dog by patting your leg.)
Pig – “oink, oink” (Put palm of hand under chin and wave fingers.)
Duck – “quack, quack” (Open and close index and middle fingers and thumb by mouth.)
Cow – “moo-moo” (Extend thumb and little finger to look like horns and place on head.)

And here are some picture cards for the song.

Printables - Free Download

Alex also created a video and picture cards for "Mother Goony Bird." This is just a silly song that the children love to sing and act out. 

Hint!  It's even more fun when they see their teacher making the motions!  

Mother Goony Bird

Mother Goony Bird had 7 chicks. (Hold up 7 fingers.)
And 7 chicks had Mother Goony Bird.
And they couldn’t swim – NO! (Extend left hand and shake head.)
And they couldn’t fly – NO! (Extend right hand and shake head.)
All they did was go like this – right arm. (Flap right arm.)

Add left arm…right foot…left foot… (Add other movements.)
Nod your head…turn around, sit down!

Activities: Choose children to be the chicks and Mother Goony bird and act out the song.

Gooney Bird Cards Small - Free

Gooney Bird Cards Large - Free

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


Music is the "dessert" of the curriculum. If you're not singing every day, you're missing a little magic. In August, 2015, I gave away a free file with songs that will be perfect for your new school year. You'll find a song to start your day, end your day, build a classroom family, learn the days of the week, letters, count, wiggle, and more. Music is perfect for "prior learning" for your young children, and it can be a good review for your older students.

Here's a link where you can download the file with 15 songs:

Rise and Shine to start each day.

The Rules Rap to encourage positive behavior. 

Days of the Week for a calendar song.

Over in the Meadow to connect numbers and sets.

Twelve Days of School to count.

Nursery Rhyme Rap for phonological awareness.

Alphardy for alphabet knowledge and phonics.

Five Senses for science.

The Cool Bear Hunt for sequencing.

Silly Willy for a brain break.

The Wheels on the Bus for fun.

I Like to Come to School for a positive attitude.

Super Star Chant for creating a classroom community.

Gray Squirrel just because it's a sweet song I remember singing with my children.

It's Time to Say Good-Bye to send them out the door on a positive note.

You'll also find links for books you can download to go with the songs.

Monday, August 26, 2019


You know I LOVE sign language! I’m certainly no expert, but if I can do it, anybody can do it. Let me give you a few reasons why I’m such a believer that sign language is the perfect  vehicle for active learning.
It’s quiet.

It’s multi-sensory.

It’s engaging. (All I have to do is sing a song in sign language and I have children’s undivided attention.)

It’s good for differentiated instruction and for children who are non-English speakers. 

It’s free and it’s simple.

It’s like bubblegum. Bubblegum? Yep! We need to figure out how to stick things in the brain, and sign language can provide that connection.

Sign language can be a powerful tool for classroom management.

Sign language can be a strategy to teach children how to communicate with friends and work through conflicts.

Sign language can be a creative vehicle for reinforcing state standards.

It’s a great learning tool for teaching letters, high frequency words, vocabulary, etc.)


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.


Sunday, August 25, 2019


Children LOVE to create things with their hands.  Think of how children can SHOW WHAT THEY KNOW instead of using a computer assessment or paper and pencil test. 

(stick, paper bag, paper plate, sock, coat hanger, envelope)
Provide children with the materials to make puppets of their favorite character from a story. They could also make a puppet of animals studied, famous historical figures, and so forth. The puppet will give them a fun way to share information with classmates.

(mold with clay or play dough)
Children can make something that they learned from reading a book, watching a video, etc.

Create a Board Game
Challenge children to make a game to review information from a unit of study. They could do this independently or with a partner.

Poster, Collage, or Mural
Divide children into small groups and let them create a visual about what they’ve learned.

Class Chef
Foodies are growing in number with school age children. They’ll have fun preparing and serving foods from different regions, cultures, food groups, etc.


Here are some other opportunities for children to express themselves creatively

Skit or play
Role play
Pantomime and charades
Rap or song
Mask or costume         


Saturday, August 24, 2019


Why patty cake?

Patty cake is a great brain break when children are restless.

When you patty cake you cross the midline which activates both sides of the brain.

It's good for eye-hand coordination.

It's TPR - Total Physical Response - motor skills and oral language.

Patty cake encourages self-regulation and the executive function.

It nurtures 21st century skills - cooperation, collaboration, and communication.

You've got purposeful practice for automaticity (aka repetition) because children will want to do it over and over.

How about INTENTIONAL TEACHING? Choose words or skills you are working on and integrate them into this movement game.

It's free, simple, environmentally friendly, sugar-free...Doesn't get much better than that!!

What skills can you practice?

In addition to traditional hand clap chants like "Miss Mary Mack," you can practice these skills.                                                      

Sight Words 
Children face a partner. They say the word as they clap. They cross and tap partner’s hands on each letter. Then high five and say the word in the air.
  the  (clap hands)
  t  (right hand)
  h  (left hand)
  e  (right hand)
  the  (high five)

Letters and Sounds
Clap right hands and say a letter.  Cross left hands and make the sound.
  A  (right hand)
 /a/ (left hand)
  B (right hand)
 /b/ (left hand)
  C through Z


Count by one’s, five’s, ten’s, etc.

Nursery Rhymes
Patty cake nursery rhymes.  

*Use the tune to "100 Bottles of Pop on the Wall" or "Yankee Doodle.)

Math Facts
Say addends and then high five the sum.
  3  (right hand)
  plus (left hand)
  4  (right hand)
  equals (left hand)
  7 (high five)

Here's a patty cake video I made several (well, many) years ago with my grandson.



Friday, August 23, 2019


Here are some multi-sensory ways to put vocabulary, sight words, and spelling words in the brain.  Purposeful practice for automaticity (aka repetition) is essential to skill mastery, and these chants and dances will be more fun than drill and kill.  They're also the perfect brain break where children can learn as they move.

Clap and Snap – As you spell out words clap on the consonants and snap on the vowels.

Jumping Jacks – Do jumping jacks for each letter in a word.

Palm Pilot – Hold up one palm and trace the letters in a word with the index finger of the opposite hand. After making the letters say the word and “take it to the brain” by pretending to run your fingers up your arm to your brain.

Sight Word Cadence
Children echo each line as you sing four word wall words at a time.  Slap thighs and march as you sing.
     There are some words you need
     If you want to learn to read.
     A     All      And   Are
     Be   Book   Boy   By…etc. 


Singing the Word Wall
Sing the word wall from a to z with the tune of “Gilligan’s Island.”

Disco – Finger up in the air and move it across your body as you say different letters in a word. Hands on hips as you say the word.

Air Writing – Children use their finger, foot, knee, tongue, elbow and other body parts to spell out words in the air.

March – Children march and swing arms on each letter. They salute and say the word at the end.


Body Writing
Tall letters (b, d, f, h, k, l, t) - touch your head
Tummy letters (a, c, e, i, m, n, o, r, s, u, v, w, x, z) – touch your tummy
Toe letters (g, j, p, q, y) – touch your feet
For example:
      H – touch head
      O – touch tummy
      P – touch feet
      Clap as you say the word “hop.”

Thursday, August 22, 2019


Turn math standards into a game with these activities.

I Love Math!

Here’s a “quickie” math game that is like “rock, scissors, paper.” Each child will need a partner. Children open one palm. Make a fist with the other hand and place it on the palm. The teacher says, “I love math” as children tap their fist on their palm. On the word “math” the children stick out some fingers. Children add their fingers with their partner’s to determine how many in all. If they agree, they continue with the game. If they disagree, they have to work it out.

Body Addition and Subtraction

Children stand and put their hands in the air as the teacher says a number. When they touch their heads the teacher says “plus” or “minus.” As they touch their waist the teacher says a second number. When the touch their knees everyone says “equals.” And when they touch their toes they say the answer to the math fact.

Adaptations: Tell number stories where children touch and tell the answer.

Magic Fingers
The teacher calls out a “magic number.” The teacher holds up numbers on one hand next to her chest. The children must hold up the correct number of fingers to equal the “magic number.”

Addition Pokey   (Tune: “Hokey Pokey” – Totally Math CD)
Put 1 finger in. (Hold up finger on right hand.)
Put 1 finger more. (Hold up 1 finger on left hand.)
Shake them altogether (Roll around.)
And then lay them on the floor. (Place on floor or table.)
Add them both together, (Bring hands together.)
And you don’t want to stall.
Now you have 2 in all.
2 fingers…3 fingers…4 fingers…5 fingers

*Do “Addition Pokey” with other facts.

Hi Ho Adding We’ll Go  (Tune: “The Farmer in the Dell”)
1 plus 1 equals 2 (Hold up fingers as you sing.)
1 plus 1 equals 2
Hi, ho, adding we’ll go. (Roll hands around.)
1 plus 1 equals 2

Circle Count
Students sit or stand in a big circle. Explain that the group will be counting around the circle, each saying one number. You may count zero to twenty, or decide to “count on” and choose random numbers like 36 to 47. Choose a magic number in the sequence of numbers that will be counted. The person who says that number each time around will go sit in the middle of the circle. Play continues (with the given numbers or a new set you choose) until only one student is left in the circle.
*Have students count by tens to one hundred. Each student says one number. The student who says “one hundred” goes to the middle of the circle.

Mingle Jingle
Children tiptoe quietly around the room as they whisper, "Jingle, jingle." When the teacher calls out a number, they must form groups with that amount. Those students who are leftover can do a jumping jack or other silly movement. Continue having the children mingle and jingle and form different sets.

Giant Number Line
Attach a piece of tape to the floor in a prominent place in your classroom. Let children walk on it forwards, backwards, hop, etc. After playing with the line, ask them to sit on the floor. Explain that you’re going to turn it into a number line as you demonstrate writing numbers (0-10) on the tape.

*Ask one child at a time to walk on the number line as they say each number.
*Call out different numbers and ask random students to stand on those numbers. What is one more? What is one less?
*Give students dot cards (0-10) and ask them to match their card with the number on the line.

*Make a number line on the sidewalk with chalk and use for similar activities.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


This dance is so much fun.  You can count, say the months, or say the ABC's as you wiggle and cross the midline.

Macarena Count to 100
Directions: Children stand and do the “Macarena” as they count.
1 (Right arm out palm down.)
2 (Left arm out palm down.)
3 (Right palm up.)
4 (Left palm up.)
5 (Right hand on left shoulder.)
6 (Left hand on right shoulder.)
7 (Right hand behind head.)
8 (Left hand behind head.)
9 (Right hand on left hip.)
10 (Left hand on right hip.)
(Clap two times.)
That is one ten. (Hold up one finger.)

*Do the “Macarena” with Dr. Jean on this video:

*Skip count using the Macarena. Counting by 2’s, 5’s, 10’s, etc. will help children with multiplication.

Macarena Months(Dance the Macarena as you sing.)
January, (Left arm out with palm down.)
February, (Right arm out with palm down.)
March, (Turn left palm up.)
April, (Turn right palm up.)
May, (Right hand on left shoulder.)
June, (Left hand on right shoulder.)
July, (Right hand on back of head.)
August, (Left hand on back of head.)
September, (Right hand on left front hip.)
October, (Left hand on right front hip.)
November, (Right hand on back right hip.)
December, (Left hand on back left hip.)
Then you turn around. (Turn around.)

*End with "There are 12 months, 52 weeks, and 365 days in a year, WHOO!" (Point to the sky on Whoo!)

Macarena Alphabet
Sing or say the letters as you cross the midline.
A (Left arm out with palm down.)
B (Right arm out with palm down.)
C (Turn left palm up.)
D (Turn right palm up.)
E (Right hand on left shoulder.)
F (Left hand on right shoulder.)
G (Right hand on back of head.)
H (Left hand on back of head.)
I (Right hand on left front hip.)
J (Left hand on right front hip.)
K (Right hand on back right hip.)
L (Left hand on back left hip.)
And M (Turn around.)
N (Left arm out with palm down.)
O (Right arm out with palm down.)
P (Turn left palm up.)
Q (Turn right palm up.)
R (Right hand on left shoulder.)
S (Left hand on right shoulder.)
T (Right hand on back of head.)
U (Left hand on back of head.)
V (Right hand on left front hip.)
W (Left hand on right front hip.)
X (Right hand on back right hip.)
Y (Left hand on back left hip.)
And Z (Turn around.)