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Friday, January 31, 2020


Those of you who follow my blog and know me still believe in childhood and PLAY like I do! How long have I been preaching that THESE ARE JUST LITTLE CHILDREN! They will have a lifetime to tap and swipe on a device, but they'll never be able to go back and capture the JOY of childhood.  I think there is finally some momentum growing to integrate play in early childhood.  I'll never give up preaching about the WHOLE child and how children learn through PLAY.  I MAY BE OLD, BUT I AM NOT GOING AWAY!!!!  You've got a friend in me!!!

They’ve Taken Away Our Song

By Jean Feldman

We used to sing and play outside.

We’d hold hands and we’d dance.

Now we do worksheets and take tests.

They’ve taken away our song.

We used to build with blocks.

We’d finger paint and play circle games.

Now we sit and look at a "smart" board.

They’ve taken away our song.

We used to dig in the sandbox,

Play in housekeeping and pretend.

Now we tap and swipe on our devices.

They’ve taken away our song.

Teachers used to have time to talk to us,

Sing us rhymes, tell us stories.

Now they have to collect data.

They’ve taken away our song.

But you and I have the privilege

And responsibility, too,

Of embracing children, telling them stories,

And singing them a song or two.

Give children back their song,

Laugh, and love, and play,

So when they’ve all grown up

They’ll remember their childhood in a special way. 


Thursday, January 30, 2020


Teaching children how to cover their sneezes and reminding them to wash their hands are two effective ways to keep them healthy during this flu season.

Put some baby powder in your hand and then pretend to sneeze on it. As the powder flies around make the connection to what happens when they don’t cover their sneezes.

The Sneeze Song

(Tune: “Pop Goes the Weasel”)
When I have to cough or sneeze
This is what I do. (Point finger.)
I hold my elbow to my mouth (Hold up elbow in front of face.)
And into it kerchoo! (Pretend to sneeze in elbow.)
KKEERRCCHHOO! (Say this line as you dramatically pretend
to sneeze in your elbow.)

Give children a paper plate and ask them to make it look like their face. Remind them to look in a mirror to check out their eye color. When they’ve finished let them glue a tissue to their nose. Then they can trace around their hand and cut it out to glue on top.
Hint! This makes a cute bulletin board. 


Washing Hands
Practice washing hands following the guidelines and teach children a song to make the task more fun.


Wash, Wash, Wash Your Hands (Tune: "Row, Row, Row Your Boat")
Wash, wash, wash your hands
play the handy game.
Rub and scrub and scrub and rub
Germs go down the drain!

Children love to look at themselves in the mirror, so place a mirror above the sink where children clean up. Remind them to sing "Happy Birthday" to yourself twice as you look in the mirror.

Potty, Flush, and Wash (Cindy and Tracy)
Several years ago at a workshop two teachers taught us this song to the tune of “London Bridge.”
Potty, flush, and wash your hands,
Wash your hands, wash your hands.
Potty, flush and wash your hands

Wednesday, January 29, 2020


Groundhog Day is this Sunday, but you'll want to give this little guy some attention one day this week.

Groundhog Day – February 2nd
(Tune: “Say, Say, My Playmate” Happy Everything CD)
February 2nd, (Hold up 2 fingers.)
Is Groundhog Day.
Gather round his hole (Make circular motion.)
To hear what he’ll say. (Place hand by ear.)
Will spring be early
Or late this year?
Watch and listen
To what you’ll hear.

If he sticks his head out (Make a hole with one hand.)
On a sunny day (Stick the index finger from the other hand
His shadow will frighten him (up through the hole and wiggle.)
And he will say,
“I’ll go back in my hole (Tuck finger in your fist.)
And go back to sleep.
You’ll have winter
For six more weeks.”

If he sticks his head out (Make a hole with fist and stick up finger.)
On a cloudy day
He’s not frightened
So he will say, (Wiggle finger.)
“I think I’ll stay out
And the weather should clear.
Spring will be here
Early this year.”
*You can download the book at

Cup Puppet
Let children draw a groundhog or download one off the internet. Staple to a straw. Punch a hole in the bottom of a paper cup and insert the straw in the cup. Raise and lower the groundhog as appropriate in the song.

Sidewalk Shadows
Go outside on a sunny day and have children stand with their backs to the sun. Let them make silly motions and play “Guess what I am?” Give them chalk and let them trace around each other’s shadows.
*Draw shadows at 10, 12, and 2 and compare.

*Play shadow tag where they try to touch each other's shadows.

Where’s the Groundhog?
Cut twenty 4” squares out of heavy paper. Write high frequency words, math facts, letters, numerals, etc. on the cards. Glue a picture of a groundhog on a 3" circle. Have the children sit on the floor in a circle. Mix up the cards and place them face up on the floor. Identify the numeral (etc.) on each card as you place it down on the floor. Tell the children to turn around. Hide the groundhog under one of the squares. Children turn back around and try and guess where the groundhog is hiding. One at a time children call out a number and then “peek” to see if the groundhog is under it. The first child to find the groundhog gets to have a turn hiding it. The game continues as children hide the groundhog and then try to discover his whereabouts.

Invite children to dramatize the groundhog peeping out of his hole. What if it's sunny? What if it's cloudy?

Note! Visit for more great ideas!

You can watch me demonstrate some of these February activities on a video I did a few years ago.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020


As excitement for the Super Bowl builds, it is the perfect time to brainstorm what players have to do to get ready for the game. Emphasize the importance of good nutrition, exercise, and studying the playbook. These are all things that are important to good students as well!!!

Circuit Training

Here’s a super way to get some exercise when the weather is bad. Write exercises similar to the ones below on construction paper and tape them around the room. Divide children into groups of 2 or 3 and have them start at a station. Put on some music with a good beat. Time the children for one minute at each station and then say, “Switch!” Groups rotate in a circle around the room until they have completed each station.

*tire run (feet apart and arms out as you run in place)

*throw and catch (pretend to throw overhead and then catch a football)

*scissor jump (jump crossing legs right and then left)

*balance (stand on one leg)

*passing run (run in place as fast as you can)

*jump and catch (jump up in the air as you pretend to catch the ball)

*toe touch (touch toes and then hands in the air)

*squats (arms out front as you bend legs up and down)

*jumping jacks (jump out with arms up and then jump in with arms down)

*jump rope (pretend to jump rope in place)

*silent cheer leaders (jump and cheer without making any noise)

Fitness Learning Trail
Reinforce skills as children use their bodies and brains!  This could be done outside when the weather is nice or inside when it's cold or rainy.

For example:

*Count to 100 by 10's as you do jumping jacks

*Patty cake some nursery rhymes with a friend

*Count backwards from 20 as you march in place

*Do squats as you name as many insects as you can

*Balance on one foot as you name your city, state, and country

*Balance on the other foot as you say your address and phone number

*Touch toes and then stand up and read a word in the room 

*Sing the ABC’s forwards and then backwards as you stand on tip toes

*Run in place as you name different shapes that you see


Monday, January 27, 2020



Get ready for the game with these learning activities this week. 

Survey Says
Let children do surveys (classroom, at home, etc.) to find out which team others think will win the Super Bowl.

“Offensive,” “Defensive,” “Penalty,” “Referee,” “Substitution,” “Huddle” …How many football terms can you think of that might be meaningful to learn?

Jersey Math
Let children choose their favorite player’s number and write it on a paper jersey. How many facts can they think of that equal that number.

Starting Line Up
At the beginning of the day let children make two lines facing each other. Introduce one child at a time and let them run through the two lines as their friends give them high five and cheer.

Good Job
At the end of the day make a huddle and say, “Good job, team!”

How many players on each team? How many players in all?
How long is a football field?
How many points for a touchdown? Field goal? Safety?
How long is a quarter? How long is the entire game?
How many yards in a first down?

Let children estimate what they think the total score will be. After the game determine who guessed more – less - the closest?

Put out the scrap box and let children make pennants, hats, pompoms, and other paraphernalia.

Football Practice Game
Cut footballs out on the fold similar to the one shown. Write math facts on the front and the answer inside.
*These can be used for phonics, numerical order, question and answers, etc.

What does "NFL" stand for? Download a copy of the team logos (Mr. Google will help you) and make a visual matching game or memory game.

Sunday, January 26, 2020



February 5, 2020 


Let’s give children a break from “rigor” and “instructional time” and give them the opportunity to do what is becoming a lost art – PLAY!

February 4, 2015, was the first annual Global School Play Day and it has grown rapidly. They are hoping to reach 500,000 students this year and you can join in on the fun!

How do you make this happen? Personally, I would get my families and parent organizations involved. (Administrators might listen to them more than to you or me.)

Here are some other tips I learned from the website:

1. EDUCATE Remind parents and administrators about the benefits of play. (There are some good videos on the GSPD website.)

2. GET SOCIAL Use social media to encourage other schools to get involved. #GSPD2017.

3. CALL FOR TOYS Tell your students they can bring anything they want to school to play with on February 1st. (No electronic devices or toys with batteries!)

Don't organize
Don't tell them how to play
Don't interfere

5. SHARE AND REFLECT Share pictures, ideas, and reflections after the event. Encourage students to talk to their parents about the day and continue to PLAY at home.

Note! Even if your school won't do it for a full day, couldn't they at least let the kids play the last hour of the day?


                          Come on everybody! Let's all PLAY on February 5th!

Saturday, January 25, 2020


O.K. O.K. Just a few more strategies for helping children master those sight words. 

Hint!  Think about how you could use these same techniques for teaching letters, numbers, vocabulary, and other skills that children have to master.

Spotlight on Reading (Vickie Spencer)
Use this idea to line up and learn. Turn the lights off and then pass a flashlight to one child. That child shines the flashlight on a word and reads it. She then passes the flashlight to another friend. Children continue reading a word and passing the flashlight to a friend until all have read a word and lined up.

Sight Word Selfie! (Myca Lopez)
Children walk around the room and take selfies with sight words they can read.

*Have them do this at home using their parent's camera. Parents send these to school and the class can read over them on the interactive white board.

Time Out Words
Make a chart with “Time Out Words.” Those are words that don’t obey rules like “are, the, one, etc.”

*I've also heard these referred to as "Outlaw Words" because they don't obey the laws.


Word Wall Ball (Lynn Urban)
Students earn a bead for each word wall word they learn and string it on a necklace. Once all word wall words have been learned, they earn a star bead. In the spring celebrate with a BALL! Students wear nice clothes and their word bead necklaces. Serve refreshments, and dance!

High Five  
Write sight words on hands and tape to your classroom door. Students must "high five" a hand and read a word before exiting the classroom.


Friday, January 24, 2020


Children have different learning strengths and weaknesses. Some children have good visual memory skills, while others (kinesthetic/tactile learners) learn better through the sense of touch.

Palm Pilot
Practice saving words with palm pilots. Children hold up one palm and write the letters in a word with the index finger of their other hand. Pretend to run your fingers up your arm to your brain as you say the word. Do each word three times to make sure it gets “saved” in the brain.
*Children can also do “invisible” writing in the air or write on each other’s backs.

Rainbow Words
Children write words with a black crayon or marker in the middle of the page and then trace around the word with different colors of crayons.
*Hint! Write a “giant” word in the middle of a large sheet of newsprint. Tape it to a wall and encourage all of the children to trace around it.

Shaving Cream
Squirt shaving cream (non-menthol) on each child’s desk. After they explore with it they can practice writing words.

Cut letters out of sandpaper and glue them on poster board to make words. Children trace over the letters with their fingers as they blend the sounds.

Sand and Salt Trays
Cover the bottom of a tub or shoe box with sand or salt. Let children practice writing words in the tub.
*You can also write words on construction paper and place them in the bottom of the tub. Cover with sand. Children scrape away the sand and try to read the word.

Lotty Dotty
Write words by making dots with a water-based marker. Put a drop of glue on top of each dot. Dry. The marker will bleed into the glue to create a textured word. Children trace over the dots as they read the word.
Hint! Let children make rubbings of lotty dotty words. Can they connect the dots and write the word?

Bumpy Words
Write words on top of needlepoint canvas with a crayon. Children can trace over the bumpy letters as they read the word.


Disappearing Words
Give children a cup of water and a piece of sponge. Children write words with the sponge on a chalkboard. Can they remember the word as it dries and disappears?
*They can also write words with a paintbrush on the sidewalk.

Note!  These strategies can be adapted for learning letters, numbers, shapes, etc.

Thursday, January 23, 2020


Music can be the “dessert” in your curriculum. Try using some of these familiar tunes to practice reading sight words.

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

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

Two Letter Words
Sing two letter words to “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
If you want to spell he, say “h” “e.”
If you want to spell he, say “h” “e.”
It’s easy as can be when you sing and spell with me.
If you want to spell he, say “h” “e.”

Three Letter Words

Sing three letter words to “Where Is Thumbkin?”
What spells the? What spells the?
T – h – e (T – h – e)
T-h-e spells the. (T–h–e spells the.)
T – h – e. (T – h – e)
*Sing three letter words to “Three Blind Mice.”

*THE Poem: You can say the, or you can say
but you always have to spell it T- h - e!


Four Letter Words
Learn to spell four 4 letter words with “Happy Birthday.”
T – h – a – t spells that. T – h – a – t spells that.
T – h – a – t spells that. T – h – a – t spells that.
*Sing four letter words to “My Darlin’ Clementine” or “YMCA.”

Five Letter Words
Five letter words can be sung to “BINGO.”
There is a word that you should know and green is the word-o.
G – r – e – e – n. G – r – e – e – n. G – r – e – e – n.
And green is the word-o.
*Sing five letter words to “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”

Six Letter Words
The tune of “Ten Little Indians” can be used to spell six letter words.
That spells school.
*The theme song from “The Mickey Mouse Club” can also be used for six letter words.

Seven or Eight Letter Words
*Fit the letters in longer words to “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” and “Coming Round the Mountain.”

Chiming Words
Use a xylophone for this activity. Strike keys on letters and the blend.

Here's a link to the video I did a few years ago on sight words:

Wednesday, January 22, 2020


Here's a great (FREE) website called where you can get materials and activities for helping children learn sight words in a meaningful way.  I'm sure you'll find useful information for your classroom, but it might also be a great resource for your parents.

Sight words are the words that occur most frequently in written English (such as and, will, can), and many of them don’t follow the “rules” of phonics (such as once and could). Children need to learn sight words to build their fluency and speed in reading. They need to be able to recognize these words “by sight,” rather than de-coding them letter by letter. When a child struggles to read the individual words in a sentence, she isn’t able to pay attention to what the sentence is about.

At we will show you a variety of teaching techniques to introduce new sight words to your child and review old words. One day’s instruction can include just 10 minutes of lesson time followed by 20 minutes of a sight words game. Our sight words games reinforce the lessons through repetition, but wrapped up in fun variations of classic card and board games.

Free Resources Include:


Sight Words Flash Cards

Print your own sight words flash cards. Create a set of Dolch or Fry sight words flash cards, or use your own custom set of words.

Sight Words Teaching Strategies

Follow the sight words teaching techniques. Learn research-validated and classroom-proven ways to introduce words, reinforce learning, and correct mistakes.

Sight Words Games

Play sight words games. Make games that create fun opportunities for repetition and reinforcement of the lessons.


Phonemic Awareness Basics

Learn what phonological and phonemic awareness are and why they are the foundations of child literacy. Learn how to teach phonemic awareness to your kids.

Phonemic Awareness Games

A sequenced curriculum of over 80 simple activities that take children from beginners to high-level phonemic awareness. Each activity includes everything you need to print and an instructional video.

Phoneme Sound Pronunciation

Teach phoneme and letter sounds in a way that makes blending easier and more intuitive. Includes a demonstration video and a handy reference chart.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020


What’s the good word?
Have you heard?

Sight words, sight words

Let's remember those words!


Purposeful practice for automaticity (aka repetition) is essential to skill mastery. The problem is when you drill children they get bored and don’t pay attention. Here are some chants and movement strategies to practice sight words, spelling words, and vocabulary words.

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.

Back Writing – Stand in a circle and spell out words on your neighbor’s back. Erase before writing a new word.

Cheer Words – Step back and forth as you clap and spell out words.
      Give me an “E.”
      I’ve got an “E” you’ve got an “E.”
      Give me ….
      What’s it spell? (Shout out word.)

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.
Patty Cake – 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.

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.”

Your Turn – Let children come up with their own creative ways to practice spelling words.

Monday, January 20, 2020


Did you know that 3 words make up 10% of what we read? (I, and, the)
Did you know that 13 words make up 25% of what we read?

Did you know that 100 words make up 50% of what we read?

It just makes sense that if children memorize these words, then reading fluency and comprehension will be strengthened. Many of the high frequency words do not follow phonetic patterns and they cannot be sounded out. Additionally, these words tend to be abstract and have no visual connection. Children simply need to recognize them by sight. In fact, in the “olden days” we referred to these words as “sight words.” Now they are commonly called high frequency words or word wall words.

Memorization of these words will be enhanced with repetition. I’ve heard it takes the average child 25-36 exposures/experiences with a word before it is saved in their brains. Rather than drill and kill, I’ve got some games, songs and activities to make learning these words a little more fun. I’ll be focusing on sight words, but these same strategies can be adapted for letters, shapes, numerals, vocabulary words, and so forth.

Note! In addition to teaching words in isolation, use these games with phrase cards. Phrase cards are groups of words that come up frequently when children read. If they are learned as a “chunk” they will improve fluency when children read.

Lifetime Words
Refer to high frequency words as “lifetime words.” Explain that if you put these words in your brain, you will be able to read with them the rest of your life!

Treasure Boxes
Make “treasure boxes” (Altoids tins) where children can save the words as they learn them.

Word Rings
Give each child a book ring. When she learns a word (or requests to learn a word), write it on an index card, punch a hole, and let her attach to the ring.


Word Study Booklet
Go to (practice booklets) and download directions to make this tool. Each child will need a pocket folder and can progress at her own rate as she masters lists of words.

Note! The word lists on this site are appropriate for first or second grade. I would make my own list for kindergarten students with 8-10 words on each list.


Word Wall Office
Make a personal office with high frequency words for each child. Tape two file folders together and staple copies of your class word wall inside. I suggest stapling so you can change the sheets as the word wall expands throughout the year. Children can set these up on their desks when they write to make a study carrel.

Sunday, January 19, 2020



                              WANT SOMETHING FUN TO STEM THIS WEEK?

If you’ve been to my workshops, I always mention this idea. It’s a great way to involve parents and get some cool materials for your science center.  And what a great way to add some excitement to a boring week in January!!

What do you need to do ahead of time?

Run off copies of my discovery bottles from my website (May, 2012). Send home a letter to your parents similar to the one below along with directions for one of the bottles:

Dear Parents,

We are excited that your child is going to participate in his or her first SCIENCE FAIR this week. Please help your child make a “discovery bottle” using the attached directions. You are welcome to look on the internet to find another bottle that you’d like to make. (Just search “discovery bottles” or “sensory bottles” for more ideas.)

Water bottles are perfect for this project. Soak the bottle in warm water or blow with a hair dryer to remove the label. The only difficult part is removing the sticky glue left on the bottle. (I’ve found the easiest thing to do is just put a piece of clear packaging tape over the sticky part.) You’ll find most of the materials for making these bottles in a junk drawer or in your kitchen cabinet.

Please send the bottle back to school this Friday. For our science fair we’ll let each child “show and share” how they made their bottle. We’ll create a special science center so the children can revisit the bottles and discover and explore over the next few weeks.

We hope you’ll stop by and see all of the creative ways children can recycle bottles and LEARN!

Note! The only thing you’ll need to do is glue the lids on with E6000 or a similar glue. Shake, rattle, and roll those bottles!

Of course, you'll want to award a "participation" ribbon to each child!

What a great way to get students excited about SCIENCE!

Saturday, January 18, 2020


Last week I was lucky to be invited to Carlisle School in Axton, VA. It’s sits on top of a mountain and is “just a little piece of heaven.” The children were ADORABLE and the teachers were OUTSTANDING! 

You know I’m always looking for new ideas, and I loved this idea called “SCOOTS” from Jessica Quisenberry. This game can be adapted for all content areas and age levels and it beats a worksheet or computer game any day!

Write math facts, sight words, pictures, etc. on index cards. Write a letter or number in the corner of each card. Tape the cards around the room.

Prepare an answer grid similar to the one shown. Children “scoot” or walk around the room until they find a card. They can then put their answer on the grid.

Hint! Cardboard clipboards work great for this activity.

*Adapt the number of sections to the age and ability of your students.

Example: math facts (write the answer)

Phonics (picture for children to identify the beginning sound, blend, vowel, etc.)

Parts of speech (word and they write if it is a noun or verb)

This is another game from Jessica Quisenberry that’s perfect for subitizing. Use white paper plates and put a number of dots on each plate. Scatter the plates on the floor and play like “musical plates.” Children walk around the room and when the music stops they find a plate and a partner. Each child identifies the number on their partner’s plate.
Note! Who has more? Who has less?

*With older children ask them to add or subtract the dots on their plate.

Friday, January 17, 2020


OWNERSHIP of materials is important to elementary children, and this math office is the perfect tool to give them their own space. Tape two file folders together for each child. Glue copies of math concepts you are working on to the folders. For example, a hundreds chart, days of the week, months of the year, shapes, and so forth. Use a pipe cleaner and pony beads to make an abacus you can attach at the top.


Children can set these up on their table or desk when it's time for math to help them focus.

Math Box

Create a special math box for each child that they can use if they finish their work early. Encourage them to make up their own games as they explore with the materials.

*Thanks to Sue Dier for sharing this idea with me.


Each child will need their own container (pencil box, bag, diaper wipe box, etc.) to make their math box.

Put math manipulatives similar to the ones below in the boxes:

Math cards (1-10 or 10-20)
Math fans (
Deck of cards
Inexpensive calculators
Counting items with a small cup
Set of tangrams
Dot cards
Small Calendars
Number Path (Use an index card and cut a strip out so the kids can just see one number at a time. What’s one more, one less, etc.?)

Hint! Some of these materials can be download free off the internet. The parents will need to send in other items. Most can be found at a dollar store.