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Saturday, October 31, 2020


Children love to make lists like grownups do.  Making lists will also nurture the executive function (task initiation and task completion) and encourage children to THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX. 

Homemade Clipboard

Each child will need a 9” x 12” piece of corrugated cardboard. Attach a butterfly clip, insert paper, and let the writing begin!

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.”

You can also use the clipboards for some of the activities on the "list" below.

Friday, October 30, 2020


Hand of Thoughts

Children trace around their hand and write a story element (Who, what, where, when, why) in each finger.

Character Graph

Draw the outline of a body similar to the one shown. Label with “see,” “hear,” “think,” “say,” “feel,” “go.” After reading a story use the character graph for children to recall details.

Star of Knowledge

Make a large star and write a concept in the middle. Children add facts and details in each point of the star.

Thursday, October 29, 2020


Did you know that John Venn conceived the Venn diagram around 1880 to teach elementary set theory? The Venn remains a useful tool to compare and contrast in our classrooms today.
Children can compare and contrast themselves with a friend. How are they different and how are they alike?

Children can demonstrate primary and secondary colors with Venns.

How about comparing books or characters with a Venn?

Animals (frogs and toads), plants (palm tree and cactus), or foods (apples and oranges) can be explored with Venns.

Letters (curves, lines, lines and curves) can even be sorted with a Venn diagram.

Time Lines
Time Lines are a visual way for children to recall the sequence in a story.

Time lines can be used to illustrate the life cycle of plants and animals.

Children can record the day’s events with a time line or use a time line to organize tasks that they must accomplish at school.

Time lines can also be used for history lessons or as an autobiography.
(What was I like when I was a baby…what am I like now…what will I be when I am grown.)

Hint for Pre-K teachers! Model using these graphic organizers with your students. It will increase their print awareness and be useful (prior knowledge) when used in future grades.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020


The ATTRIBUTE WEB another great graphic organizer that can be used with different age

levels across the curriculum.  It can be used as a large group, small group, or individual project. 

Concept – Write something you are studying and have children add details.

Phonics – Put a letter in the middle and ask children to draw pictures or write words.

Prefix/Suffix – Write the prefix in the middle and children make words.

Vocabulary – Children write synonyms.

Feelings and social skills – Put an emotion in the middle and children give examples.

Brainstorm a new unit – Children write all they know about a theme you are going to study.

Assessment – Children “show” what they have learned with an attribute web.

Hint! Make the web symbolic of what it is about. For example: a spider web with details about spiders; a flower with information about plants; a smiley face with ways to be a friend; a triangle with things that are triangular, etc.


Here's a special Halloween Treat that Michelle Lewis is sharing with you.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020


Try using a T-chart instead of a worksheet to encourage children to THINK and organize information.

A T-chart helps students sort information. It can be used to discriminate:

Odd and even numbers

Facts and fiction

Nouns and verbs

Science concepts (float/sink, magnet attracts/repels, manmade/natural, recycle/not recyclable, mammals/reptiles, etc.) 

Synonyms, antonyms

Positive/negative behaviors (friends/bullies, healthy foods/junk foods)


Time lines can be used to sequence a story (beginning, middle, end), plant growth, life cycle, and the day’s events. It can also be used to help children consider where they are now and what they want to be when they grow up.

Monday, October 26, 2020


Graphic organizers provide a way to organize information and put a “visual” picture in the brain. They are open-ended and encourage critical thinking. This week I'll share a variety of visual graphics for lietracy, math, science, and social studies that will challenge your students. Put those worksheets away and get your students to put on their thinking caps!

Everybody knows how to play tic-tac-toe, but did you know that the lotus diagram could also be used instead of a worksheet.

Tic-Tac-Toe- This is what I know!


Phonics - Put a letter in the middle and ask children to draw a picture or write a word with the sound in each section.

Math - Write a number in the middle and have children put different ways to make that number in each section.

Concept -Write a concept (science, social studies, etc.) in the middle and ask children to add a detail or fact in each section.

Homework - For homework, write a different activity in each section. Children can do three in a row or all of the items. It’s their choice!


*You could do the same thing when doing a unit of study. Children choose the three (or however many) that they like best.

Tasks – Children write the activities they need to do each day or during the week. (They can color them in as they complete assignments.)

Affixes – Write the prefix or suffix in the middle and then write words using the affix.

Vocabulary or Spelling – Children write a spelling word or vocabulary word in each section. When the teacher calls out words for children get to color them in.

Directions – Children listen and follow directions. (For example: Put a smiley in the upper right hand corner. Draw a star in the middle section on the left. Write your middle name in the middle, and so forth.)

Sunday, October 25, 2020


I originally recorded this workshop last summer for school districts, but there was so much interest from individual teachers that my webmaster (Alex May) edited it so I can share it FREE with all of you.  Whether you are teaching in person or online, my hope is that you'll find some strategies and ideas that will make your teaching better than ever!!!


Welcome Kit – Getting to Know You

Communicating with Families - Expectations


Start with a Song

Morning meeting (calendar, goals, etc.)

Singing and Dancing Letters and Sounds

Musical Moving Math

Tips and Tricks (Attention grabbers, transitions, etc.)


Active Learning

Intentional Teaching

Learning Games

What to Do Instead of a Worksheet

Brain Breaks That Reinforce Skills

Memory Makers - Special Days



Saturday, October 24, 2020


This blog is a repeat from seven years ago.  It certainly was a different world then, and it makes me a little nostalgic to read some of the posts I used to write.  K.J. still talks about "Mr. D" and what a great teacher he was.  Funny, but it's not the academic skills that children remember, but the little personal "touches" such as Balogna Day.

K.J.’s third grade teacher (Mr. D) told them each day about a national holiday and tied in a vocabulary word. For example, on National Milk Shake Day they learned the word “savor” because you want to savor it and make it last. Well, October 24th is National Bologna Day and Mr. D. taught them this song from the 70’s. K.J. sang it to his mother and she got a kick out of remembering the song as they sang it together. Those are the kind of experiences and bridges that are not in your curriculum that children will remember.

October 24th National Bologna Day

My bologna has a first name,
It’s O – S – C – A – R.
My bologna has a second name,
It’s M - A – Y – E – R.
Oh, I love to eat it every day,
And if you’ll ask me why I’ll say,
Cause Oscar Mayer has a way
With B – A – L – O – G – N – A.

*Here’s the original 1973 video some of you might remember:

Sandwich Book

I always like to give you something that you can use in your classroom, so here's a sandwich book that’s perfect for descriptive writing.You'll need two cheap paper plates to make this book. Fold both plates in half. Cut in 1 ½” from the rim on both sides as shown. Cut off the folded edge between the rim on the second plate. Roll up the first plate and insert it in the hole in the second plate. Unroll and you’ll have a book.


*Let children write about their favorite sandwich.
*Have children write a “how to” make a sandwich.
*Invite children to be chefs and create a new sandwich.

Friday, October 23, 2020


I know that some of you are not allowed to dress up on Halloween or celebrate this year, but here's an idea that could make October 31st - or any day - a little more fun.  Ginny McLay shared this with me when I was in New Hampshire several years ago and I think it could be adapted to online or in person.

Vocabulary Word Costume!
Ginny McLay and was inspired by her love of vocabulary to help her kids love learning new words with a costume party.

After focusing on words (synonyms, antonyms, nouns, verbs, and adjectives) invite children to think of a word that they LOVE, ADORE, AND ADMIRE and create a costume for their word.

Easy steps to make a costume!

1. Think of a few words that are really interesting.

2. Choose a word that you can make into a costume.

3. The word and definition must be somewhere on the costume.

4. Practice the word and definition

My word is _____. It means:_________.

Ideas for costumes:

1. Write the word and definition on a headband.

2. Write the word and definition on a piece of paper and make a necklace out of it.

3. Write the word and definition on a t-shirt and decorate with fabric paint.

4. Write the word and definition on a brown paper bag…cut it like a vest!

5. Use a costume you already have at home and think of a great word. Write the word and definition on a sash.

Can you tell? "Mysterious" and "celebrate"?

Another substitute for Halloween for younger children might be to have a nursery rhyme party. Children could all dress up like their favorite nursery rhyme character and then take turns reciting their rhyme.

Thursday, October 22, 2020


Graphic organizers (aka mind maps) are a visual way of putting information in the brain. Graphic organizers are frequently used in reading, but they can also be used to reinforce math skills and help children understand how things fit together. Here are three good reasons to give them a try:

1. They encourage children to “think outside the box.”

2. They are much more open-ended and challenging than a worksheet. 

3. They can be done independently or with a partner.

Some common graphic organizers used in the classroom include the attribute web, Venn diagram, T-chart, and tic-tac-toe frame. First, I would model using the graphic organizer with a large group, and then I would assign it for an independent or center activity.

Hint! After completing a graphic organizer invite children to explain what they did. This will enable you to “understand” their thinking process and will help make learning more meaningful. (Remember, writing and talking are two powerful ways to store things in the brain!)

Attribute Web
Have children write a numeral in the middle and then web different ways to represent
that number.

*Write “shapes” in the middle and then draw all the shapes they know.

Venn Diagram
Write numbers made with a straight line on the left, numbers made from curves on the right, and numbers made from lines and curves in the middle.

*Put a number in the middle. Write numbers larger on the left and smaller on the right.

Write odd numbers on the left and even numbers on the right.


Write “tens” on the left and “ones” on the right.

Write a number in the middle and facts that equal that number in the other sections.

*Write “10” in the middle and other teen numbers around it.


*Can you think of other ways to turn mind maps into math maps?

Wednesday, October 21, 2020


How about some ideas for geometry today? You can use these activities with young children or primary age by adapting the shapes. You might even “spy” some ways to make them work virtually!!!

The Shape Song (Tune: "I'm a Little Teapot")
I am momma circle round like a pie. (Hands over head in a circle.)
I’m baby triangle three sides have I. (Use 3 fingers to make a triangle.)
I am papa square my sides are four. (Draw a square in the air.)
I’m cousin rectangle shaped like a door. (Draw a rectangle in the air and then knock.)

I am brother oval shaped like a zero. (Make oval with arms over head.)
I’m sister diamond with a sparkle and a glow. (Touch thumbs and index fingers and extend.)
We are the shapes that you all know. (Make circles with index fingers and thumbs and
Look for us wherever you go. place around your eyes like glasses.)

*Ask the children to draw shapes in the air with elbows, feet, noses, and other body parts as you sing.

Note! Explain that “rhombus” is the correct term for the diamond shape. Sing the song calling sister a “rhombus” instead of a “diamond.”


I Spy!
Play "I Spy" by having children touch various shapes in their home classroom.  
For example:  I spy a circle.  (Children touch a circle.)

Shape Office
Give children a print out of shapes that they can cut out and glue to a file folder.  You can play "I Spy" with this or have children point to the shapes as you sing the above song.

Note!  Adapt shapes to the ability of your students and the skills you want to reinforce.

Copy Cat
Children will need paper and a pencil to play this game.  The teacher holds up common  objects with different shapes (book, cell phone, cookie, index card) and the children try to reproduce them on their paper.

Shape Collage
Cut geometric shapes out of construction paper and let children use them to make a collage. Can they combine simple shapes to make larger shapes?

Shape Hunt at Home
Demonstrate how to take a paper towel roll and wrap it in construction paper to make a spy glass that they can use for spying shapes in their home or on a walk.

Eating Shapes
Here's a simple activity that parents can do at home with crackers that are squares and circles.

*Give children one of each and ask them to describe how they are different.

*Have children eat one half of a cracker.

*Give children a square cracker and challenge them to nibble it into a circle.

*Give children two like crackers. Ask, “Are they the same amount?” Next, have them break one of the crackers into little pieces. Ask, “Are they the same amount now?” You’ll be surprised at their response. (This is called conservation of quantity and is an experiment Piaget used to demonstrate developmental stages.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2020


Math mats are a “hands on” way to give children concrete experiences with addition and subtraction. Trim a file folder to make a 12” square. Draw a line down the middle of the square as shown. Draw a line down the middle of the top section. Explain that the line in the middle is like the equal sign in an equation. What is on the top has to equal (be the same as) what is on the bottom. 


Note! Poker chips, small toys, natural items, small erasers, and other objects can be used with the math mat. You can also make smaller math mats from an 8" square.

Demonstrate how to use counters to make a set in the top left section and a set in the top right section. Count. Pull down the objects into the bottom section and count how many altogether.

Use counters to demonstrate subtraction.

Missing Addend
”If I have 3 and I want 8, how many more do I need? Let’s put 8 in the bottom. Now, move 3 to the top. How many more do you think I’ll need?” Continue to let children move the counters to solve similar problems.


A ten frame will give children another "hands-on" way to explore math concepts.
Note!  Five, ten, and twenty frames are available to download on the internet.


Building Sets
Call out a number and demonstrate how to place the counters in the frame starting on the left. Remind them to always start with the first frame on the left.
*Turn the frame vertically to make sets.
*Can you place the counters in a different way?
*Have children count forwards and backwards on their frames.

Addition and Subtraction
Place counters for the first addend on the top row and the second addend in the bottom row. How many altogether?
*Take away counters for subtraction problems.

Double Frames
Extend to a double ten frame for building numbers to 20.


Trace around the children's fingers and cut out. Glue the palms to a sheet of paper. Do not glue the fingers because you want to be able to move them up and down to demonstrate addition and subtraction.


Monday, October 19, 2020


Oh, my! Those little hands may not be ready to write numerals, but the curriculum says they should. Believe it or not, 20 years ago we didn't even teach children to write numbers in kindergarten. We saved that for first grade. Now, we are expecting pre-k children to write numbers. I can't change your curriculum, but I can give you some songs and activities that may make it a little more positive and meaningful.

P.S.  Some of these songs and activities would be great to share with your families!

The Numeral Song (“Sing to Learn” CD)
This song goes to the tune of "Skip to My Lou." Have children stand and use their index finger to write in the air. Everybody's writing will look "good" when you do it in the air!

Come right down and that is all.
Come right down and that is all.
Come right down and that is all
To make the numeral one. (Hold up 1 finger.)

2 – Curve around and slide to the right…
3 – Curve in and around again…
4 – Down, over, down some more…
5 – Down, around, put on a hat…
6 – Curve in and around again…
7 – Slide to the right and slant it down…
8 – Make an “s” then close the gate…
9 – Circle around then come right down…
10 – Come right down, then make a zero…
We can sing the “Numeral Song”…
And make numerals all day long!

*Let children do air writing with other body parts, such as their elbow, foot, etc.
They can also practice writing on their palm or a friend's back.


*Squirt shaving cream on a safe surface so the children can practice making numbers.

*Have children practice writing numbers in salt, sand, and other sensory materials.

Number Chant
Children can associate numbers with the amount with this song and video. Encourage them to hold up the appropriate number of fingers as you sing.

Theme Books (Beth Cordier)
Let children make books for whatever theme you’re studying. Make a word wall with words from the theme. (Put magnetic tape on the back so children can take them off and copy them.) Children choose a different word for each page and illustrate it.

*Older children could write sentences with the words.

For example: Fall Theme
Page 1 “Pumpkin”
Page 2 “Leaves”
Page 3 “Squirrels”
Page 4 “Footballs”

Here's another song where children can stand and practice writing numerals without getting frustrated.

Chant and Write (“Totally Math” CD)
(Children echo each line.)
Zero is where it all begins- (Slap thighs to the beat.)
Curve down around and up again.
Number one is so much fun—
Pull straight down and you’ve got a one.
Number two is easy to do—
Up around down and across makes two.
Number three is simple to see—
Draw two humps sideways and that’s a three.
Number four I do adore—
Go down, across, then down some more.
We’ve reached five, now let’s not stop—
Pull down, circle round, put a hat on top.
Number six is easy to fix—
Big curve, small loop will give you six.
Number seven is really sizzlin’—
Straight across, slant down, and that’s a seven.
Number eight isn’t very straight—
Make “S” then back up for an eight.
Number nine I think you’re fine—
A loop on top of a long straight line.
Number ten we’ve reached the end—
Put a one by a zero and count again:


 View Chant and Write                        

Highway Numbers
Children can trace over numerals with toy cars or they can roll play dough and place it on top of the numerals.

Sunday, October 18, 2020


These "wallets" are a special way for children to "save" words, letters, numbers, math facts, or any skills you want them to master.

How to Make a Wallet
Make wallets from construction paper. Lay the paper horizontally and fold up the bottom to 1” from the top. Fold in half. Glue the sides. Decorate with markers and stickers. 


Cut green paper into rectangles 4” x 2.” These are your “dollars” for your wallet. Children can write their words, letters, numbers, vocabulary, etc. on the dollars and “save” them in their wallets.

Can You Find?
Challenge children to match their "dollars" with letters, words, etc. in books.

*Can they find them printed on food labels or other things around the house? is a website I'd definitely recommend to parents. It's a good free resource for games and activities based on grade level expectations.

Saturday, October 17, 2020


A “voice box” can be used to capitalize on children’s natural interest in dramatizing. They can all be actors and actresses as they practice reading, counting, sight words, math facts, and other skills. Children can use these creative "voices"  virtually or in person.

Download the cards, cut them apart, and place them in a small box or gift bag.

Here’s a video where you can watch me demonstrate the different styles and strategies. The more dramatic you are, the more your students will get involved.

Three Bears
Speak papa bear style (with a deep voice), mama bear style (with a prissy voice), and baby bear style (with a wee voice).

Put your index finger between your lips and vibrate as you talk.

With a Cold
Children hold their nose and read like their nose is stuffed.

Lip Sinc
Mouth the words.

Read text with different emotions, such as happy, sad, angry, sleepy, etc. Which one fits the text best?

Talk out of the side of your mouth. Grrr, matie!

Pretend to type with your fingers as you move eyes from left to right. Ding, and then “return the carriage” when you get to the end of the line.

Talk like a news reporter “on the street.”

Rock and Roll
Pretend to hold guitar and dance and sing.

Extend arms and sing words dramatically.

Let children come up with their own creative voices.