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Thursday, September 30, 2021


Spiders and pumpkins and black cats - oh, my! Halloween is more than a month away, but over the next few days I'll share some "treats" with you that I've gathered over the years. Many of these rhymes and projects are like "lost atifacts" so I hope you'll keep them alive!
This is one of my all time favorite finger plays and it never goes out of style!

Jack O’ Happy
This is Jack O’ Happy. (Hands circle head and smile.)
This is Jack O’ Sad. (Hands circle head and frown.)
This is Jack O’ Spooky. (Open mouth and eyes wide.)
And this is Jack O’ Mad. (Make a mean face.)
This is Jack in pieces small. (Hold up palms.)
But in a pie he’s best of all. (Circle arms in front as if holding a pie.)

You can download a book for the children to read and color. Or, better yet, download the version with just the words so the children can make their own illustrations.

Five Little Pumpkins
(Tune: “Five Little Ducks” – Happy Everything CD)
Five little pumpkins sitting on the gate. (Hold up 5 fingers.)
The first one said, “Oh, my it’s getting late.” (Hold up thumb.)
The second one said, “There are witches in the air.” (Hold up index finger.)
The third one said, “But I don’t care.” (Hold up middle finger.)
The fourth one said, “Let’s run and run and run.” (Hold up ring finger.)
The fifth one said, “I’m ready for some fun.” (Hold up pinky.)
Ooooo! Went the wind, and out went the light. (Blow through hands, then clap.)
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight! (Roll hands behind back.)

*My students love to hold paper pumpkins and act out this rhyme.

*It's also easy to make a flannel board activity for children to use as they say the rhyme.

Once I Had a Pumpkin   (Tune: “Lassie and Laddie”)
Oh, once I had a pumpkin, a pumpkin, a pumpkin.
(Hands over head like a pumpkin.)
Oh, once I had a pumpkin with no face at all.
With no eyes and no nose and no mouth and no teeth.
(Point to facial features.)
Oh, once I had a pumpkin with no face at all.
So I made a jack-o-lantern, jack-o-lantern, jack-o-lantern.
(Draw a jack-o-lantern in the air.)
So I made a jack-o-lantern, jack-o-lantern, jack-o-lantern.
With big eyes and a big nose and big mouth and big teeth.
(Draw facial features in the air.)
So I made a jack-o-lantern with a big funny face.

*Draw a jack-o-lantern on the board as you sing the song.

Pumpkin Paint 
Mix equal parts of flour and salt. Stir in orange tempera paint. (Obviously, if it’s powdered, you will need to add some water, too.) Add a spoonful of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice to the paint and stir. Children can paint a pumpkin, pumpkin pie, or whatever they want. Their painting will be textured and smell good, too!

Pumpkin Seeds
Before carving your pumpkin, have the children estimate how many seeds they think it will contain and write down their estimations. Have the children separate the seeds and count them. Who guessed more? Who guessed less? Who guessed the closest amount? Cook some of the seeds by rinsing them and frying them in a little butter and salt. Save some of the seeds to plant in the spring.

Pumpkin Play Dough
– Make homemade play dough and add red and yellow food coloring to make it orange. Let the children knead in pumpkin pie spices. They’ll have fun making pumpkins, pies, and other characters.
Hint! Add pumpkin pie spice to make aroma play dough. 

Math Games
Make games where children seriate pumpkins from large to small or put pumpkins in numerical order.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021


Is a bat a bird or a mammal?  
Look on the internet you'll discover amazing bat facts.  
(I learned a few new things today at this site:

Where's Batty? 
Turn four or five cups upside down as shown and write sight words (letters, numbers, etc.) on them. Explain that "Batty" is going to hide under one of the cups. Have children close their eyes and “hide” the bat under one of the cups. Children take turns calling out a word and looking under that cup for the bat. The child who finds the bat gets the next turn to hide it. 

Graphic Organizers
Use attribute webs, Venn diagrams, T-charts, and other visual graphics to extend learning. 



Oral Language - Critical Thinking


Sticky Drippy Spiders

Your students will also be delighted with this bottle. Pour about 1 cup of clear corn syrup in a plastic bottle. (The amount you need will depend on the size of the bottle. I really like to use larger round containers, but this was the only one I had on hand.) Add a few drops of red and yellow food coloring and swirl around to make orange. Add a few plastic bats and spiders and watch them do their thing. (I cut the ring part off these.)

I Spy Bottle! 
Several years ago we were eating in a Mexican restaurant in October and there were little Halloween toys in the spice bottles. It was interesting to watch adults, children, and families at every table trying to identify the objects. I guarantee this bottle will capture your students' interest! 

You will need a clear plastic bottle or jar, salt or sand, and small seasonal toys. Fill the container 2/3 full with salt or sand. Insert the toys and then screw on the top. Shake.
*How many objects can the children find?

*Pass around the bottle and let each child make a complete sentence starting with "I spy a..." 

*Have each child repeat what the previous child says and then add something they see. First child: I spy a spider. Second child: I spy a spider and a bat. Third child: I spy a spider and a bat and a cat.

*Ask younger children to draw what they see in the bottle.

*Have older students make a list of everything they find in the bottle.

*Can they write a story using the objects in the bottle?

*Use the bottle to reward children who are working quietly or children who are resting quietly.

Ring Hunt
Children love to hunt for eggs at Easter, but they’ll also have fun hunting for plastic rings in the classroom or out on the playground.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021


I'll admit that I'm afraid of rats and mice,
but I think that spiders are kind of nice.

What's an arachnid? 
What’s the difference between a spider and an insect?   (Check out for fascinating facts!)
How many legs does a spider have? How many legs on 2 spiders? 3 spiders?

Cut notches in a paper plate. Children can weave yarn through the notches and then tie a ring to the end of the yarn.
*Children can also dip spiders in paint and then use them like paint brushes.

Spider Puppet

You will need paper plates, construction paper, an old sock, markers, and a stapler to make this project. Decorate two plates to look like a spider’s body. Staple the plates together leaving an opening at the top and the bottom. Cut eight - 8” x 1” strips for the spider’s legs. Glue 4 legs on either side of the body. Draw a face on the sock and then stick it through the center of the plates.

*You can make a simple puppet for children by tying a spider ring to a piece of string or yarn.

Note! We used to have so much fun cooking in kindergarten. It was the highlight of Fabulous Friday every week. I know many of you are not allowed to do activities with food, and for some reason administrators don’t think there’s enough “rigor” in classroom cooking activities. Even if you can’t use these ideas in your classroom, you might be able to use them with your own children, grandchildren, a scout group, or even grownup friends!!!

Spider Soup
This was one of my favorite Halloween activities! Get a large industrial size can of chicken noodle soup. Remove the wrapper and cover with construction paper. Write “spider soup” on the label. Take two packages of ramen noodles and crush. Put in a paper lunch sack and write “spider webs” on the front of the sack. Explain to the children that you’ll be having spider soup for snack. Show them the can and just LISTEN to their comments. Open the can and put it in a crockpot. (Someone will be sure to comment that they see spider legs and meat!) Show them the sack and explain that you will end crunchy spider webs to make it better. Dump those in and slowly cook until it is warm. Serve in paper cups.

Spider Sandwich
Use a large plastic cup to cut a circle out of a piece of bread. Spread peanut butter, cream cheese, or Nutrella on the circle. Add eyes (raisins or chocolate chips), a mouth (M& M or cinnamon candy), and legs (pretzels, carrot sticks, or Cheetos).
*For a sweeter spider, put icing on a large sugar cookie and use licorice twists for legs.


Children can use spider rings to sing the “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Sing “The BIG FAT Spider” with a loud voice. Sing the “Teensy Weensy Spider” with a high, squeaky voice.

Spider Dance

This is quite a challenge in coordination for young children! Everyone will need a partner. Partners stand side by side and put their inside arms around each other's back. Bring their free arm in front and challenge them to make the motions with their partner's free arm as you sing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider."

Spider Handshake
Partners extend 4 fingers and then touch fingertips as they wiggle their fingers.

Spider Applause
Tap fingertips together.

Drop the Spider
This game can be played outside or inside. The children sit or stand in a circle. One child “it” takes a plastic spider and walks around the outside of the circle. “It” drops the spider behind one child. That child picks up the spider and chases “it” around the outside of the circle. “It” tries to get back to the spot first and sit down. The child holding the spider then becomes “it.”

Monday, September 27, 2021


Over the next few days I'm going to share activities that you can do with plastic spiders and bats. Spiders and bats are a good substitute for scary things this time of year. They are also cheap, plentiful, and perfect for hands-on activities. "PLAYFUL AND CHALLENGING" is a buzzword in early childhood, so here are some ways that these plastic rings meet standards and engage children.

1. Kids love little toys. You’ll easily capture their interest with bat and spider rings.
2. Instead of tapping a key, children will be using multiple senses.
3. These activities can be adapted to different skills and age levels.
4. Children can work with a partner or use these materials independently in a center.
5. You can integrate STEM with facts about spiders and bats and math activities. You can also use them as a springboard for art and writing.

On a more personal level, you have given me something to do and have entertained me for the past week! I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve had trying to come up with ways to connect these plastic toys with learning activities that children will enjoy! Someone once remarked, “Dr. Jean, you take something simple and milk it for all it’s worth.” Well, I’m certainly “milking” these plastic toys for all they are worth. However, it’s a good reminder that you, too, can take seasonal objects (heart erasers), natural items (leaves), and other plentiful items and turn them into a learning opportunity!

Note! I took my scissors and snipped off the ring part to make them easier to manipulate. I also removed the skeleton rings because I thought some parents might object. (I just try to keep everybody happy!)

Ask children to sort the rings. What was their sorting rule? Can they sort them another way?

Draw spider webs and label with numerals or number words. Children make appropriate sets. 

*Use bat rings in spooky trees. Let children roll dice and make the amount.

Guess and Check
Put different amounts of rings in bags or cups. Write letters on the cups (A, B, C...). Children count and then record their answers.


Addition and Subtraction
Children can work out math problems with the spider rings.

Fill the Cup (I learned this from Carolyn.)
Two or more children can play this game. You’ll need cups, plastic toys, and dice. Children take turns rolling a die and then counting out that many objects and placing them in their cup. The first one to fill their cup is the winner. To extend the game, continue playing to see who can empty their cup first.

*Use two dice so the children can practice addition.

Fill a plastic jar with plastic toys. Children estimate how many and then write it on a sheet of paper with their name. At the end of the day count the objects. Who guessed more? Less? Who was closest?


Can children continue a pattern with the toy rings? Can they create an AB, or ABB pattern? 

Give each child a spider ring. Can you put it above your head? Can you put it beside you? Can you put it between your knees? Etc.

Bats in a Cave

Make a cave from a disposable bowl by turning it upside down and cutting an arch as shown. Display a certain number of bats. Put some in the cave and ask children, "How many do you see? How many do you think are in the cave?" 

Sunday, September 26, 2021


Are you ready for TEACHCON?! 

I'm excited to join the TeachCon team to bring you professional development led by nationally recognized presenters!

The best part?!? You don’t have to leave your home! Join us on October 18th - 20th for this FREE virtual event! Virtual spots will fill FAST so grab your seat today!
Registration is now open at


Environmental print is one way young children “read pictures” and develop visual literacy. Using environmental print at the beginning of the school year is a great way to help children make print connections, develop visual memory skills, and motivate them to read.

Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard

Ask children to save food wrappers from snacks and their lunches. Glue wrappers to sheets of paper and write this rhyme at the top of each page:

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to her cupboard
To get her poor dog a bone.
But when she got there
he cupboard was bare
And so the poor dog had…(Children read food logo.)


What’s for Breakfast?

Ask children to bring in the box from their favorite cereal. Cut the front section off and on a sentence strip write: “Child’s name eats name of cereal.” Glue to the bottom of the cereal box. Put all the boxes together and make a book. Write “What’s for Breakfast?” on the front cover. Hole punch and put the boxes together with book rings.
*You can also make a book with sacks from fast food restaurants. 



Read sayings on T-shirts, sports jerseys, shoes, and other clothing the children wear to school.

We Can Read Bulletin Board

Ask children to bring logos from food boxes, magazines, toys, clothing and household products. Make a poster or bulletin board that says: “We Can Read!” Let children glue their logos to the poster. Read over the words together.

Read at Home Book

Cut 9” x 12” sheets of construction paper in half. Let each child choose 4 or 5 different colors and staple them together to make a book. Write “I Can Read” on the front and let the children decorate with their name and picture. Send the book home with a note to the parents about helping their child recognize different logos, signs, and words on products and in the home and as they drive down the road. Encourage parents to help their child cut out words they can read from boxes, magazines, and advertisements. Ask children to bring their books back to school to “read” with classmates.


I Like

On Monday send home a sandwich bag with a note asking parents to help their child look for words she can read on food labels, toys, advertisements, and other products around their house. Children cut these out and bring them to school Friday in the sandwich bag. On Friday, encourage the children to “read” the labels that they have brought to class. Write the words “I” and “like” on index cards for each child. Model how to place the cards on the floor with a label from their bag. Point to the words as you read, “I like logo.” Ask the child to read it for you as you point to each word. Comment, “Look at you reading!!!!”

Block Engineers

Cut store logos from Sunday advertisements. Tape to wooden blocks and make your own mall in the block center.


Out the Door
Several years ago when I was in Pleasanton, TX, Nadine Barrow shared this idea. She posts words and environmental print on the inside of her door. Students have to read two of the words before exiting the classroom.


Saturday, September 25, 2021


Occupational therapists are some of the smartest people I know. I’m always picking their brains for ideas that will help children learn. One thing they’ve taught me is to practice making big strokes, shapes, and letters in the air before asking children to do it on paper. Think outside the box with these strategies to help children at all age levels.

Note! Even second graders would enjoy writing their spelling words on their “palm pilot” or tummies. 

Sky Writing (aka "invisible writing")
Keep arm stiff and extend index and middle fingers. Make lines, circles, slants, pushes and other strokes in the air.

Note! The teacher will need to reverse movements if doing it in front of the class.

Air Writing (Lisa Callis)
Go from large to small as you practice air writing letters, numerals, shapes, etc.
Stick out one arm and write with your finger.
Hold your shoulder with the opposite hand as you write with one finger.
Hold your elbow and write.
Hold your wrist and write.
Hold finger and write.

Writing Wand
Staple ribbon to a straw or tape tissue paper to a craft stick to make a writing wand.


Cut swim noodles into 8” sections and let children use these to write in the air.

Tummy Writing
Have children lie on their tummies and extend their index finger above their head. Practice making shapes, letters, etc. on the floor. (This technique will help children start writing “at the top.”) 


*Let children practice cutting, drawing, and reading on their tummies to give them control as they build upper body strength.

Body Parts

Let children suggest different body parts, such as elbows, noses, toes, etc. to write with.

Palm Pilot
Hold up one palm. Write on it with the index finger from the other hand. Be sure and “erase” in between letters!

Back to Back
Children stand in a circle and then turn right so they are all facing in the same directions. The teacher begins by making a letter, shape, numeral, etc. on the first child’s back. The first child draws the same thing on the second child’s back. Continue around the circle as every has a turn.

Wet Sponge
Let children dip a small piece of sponge in water and write with it on a chalk board.

Rainbow Writing

Make a large letter or shape on a chart. Children trace around it with different colors of crayons or markers.


P.S. You'll definitely want to download these free Letter Limericks that Mary Amoson created to go with the poems that my daughter wrote.

Hint! If you put these in a clear sheet protector, children can trace over them with a dry erase marker and then erase.

Friday, September 24, 2021


Music is the most natural way to learn anything. Mary Ann Wolf (one of the top reading researchers in our country) recommends singing alphabet songs with young children. She explains that songs act like an umbrella and “place holder” in the brain. When the letters and sounds make sense to the children, they have a “place” to go.

Visual Connections
As you sing alphabet songs, it will be helpful to connect the visual with the auditory. You can use alphabet cards or point to the letters in your classroom.

LETTER TAILS (Tune: "Gilligan's Island" – Is Everybody Happy? CD)
This is one of my favorite alphabet books that Barb Smith created several years ago. It's good for letter recognition, phonics, and visual closure (recognizing the whole from the part).

This is a tale about the letter A.
It makes a special sound.
/a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ A!
Let’s learn another sound.

This is a tale about the letter B….

You can download the book here. If you’ll glue the cover to the front of a pocket folder and put the pages in clear sheet protectors the book will last for a long time.


Who doesn’t like birthdays? Children will love dancing and singing this song.

Yo, A,
It’s your birthday.
Let’s all read
Like your birthday.
/a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/
/a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/
Yo, B…etc.

*Have children stand in a circle and act like rappers. When the letter that their name begins with comes up in the song they get to jump in the middle of the circle and dance.

Letter Birthday Hats
Let the children make birthday hats from sentence strips and wear them as you sing “Happy Birthday Letters.” (Our old stick pony is modeling the birthday hat for you.)

Birthday Cake
Draw a birthday cake on a magnetic board and sing the letters as you place them on the cake:

Yo, M, it’s your birthday.
Let’s all sing like your birthday
/m/ /m/ /m/ /m/ /m/ /m/
/m/ /m/ /m/ /m/ /m/ m/

Here’s a link so you can download the birthday cake.


Rapper Necklace
Cut letters out of heavy cardboard. Let children decorate them with fake jewels, glitter, or stickers. Punch holes in the letters and tie on string. Children can wear these as you sing this song.


Here’s a simple prop to help your children focus. Loop around the end of a pipe cleaner as shown to make a “letter looker.” Children can identify letters in their letter office and around the classroom with their “lookers.”
*They can also play a game with a partner with their letter looker. Children take turns focusing on letters as their partner tries to identify it.

ABC Kick Box 

Children stand and make fists with their hands. Explain that you will punch across with your right hand and say a letter. Then punch across with their left hand and make the sound.

A – Punch with right hand
B - Punch with left hand /b/
C…through Z


Children stand and put their hands in the air as they say a letter. They put their hands on their shoulders and make the letter sound. As they touch their toes they say a word that starts with that sound.

A (Hands up in the air and say “A.”)

/a/ (Hands on shoulders and make the short /a/ sound.)

(Say a word that starts with “A” as you touch your toes.)

*Have older children say words that are nouns, verbs, or other parts of speech as you touch your toes.

Karate Writing
Explain that some letters are tall. They start at the top dotted line. Some letters start at the middle dotted line. Some letters have a tail. They go below the line. Sing the “Alphabet Song” stretching up in the air for tall letters, putting hands on waist for short letters, and touching the ground for letters with a tail. For example:

A -hands on waist
B - hands in air
G - touch ground  

Thursday, September 23, 2021


I have been at this rodeo a LONG time, and I want you to know there is NO one correct way to introduce letters or teach children to read. Just take a look around you and you’ll see people of all ages who know HOW to read and they learned TO READ with a variety of different approaches, materials, and reading programs.

Many people ask me questions about how to introduce letters. Should you do capital letters first? Is there a specific order you should follow? There is NO definitive research to support one particular strategy. Children come to you with so many varied experiences and skills that one size will not fit all. There are two principles that I think are important.

First, make it authentic! Teach letters in context and connect with children’s names, units of study, nursery rhymes, and other interests. For example, a trip to the pumpkin patch would be the perfect time to talk about Pp. Talk about the letter Jj when you say Jack and Jill. If your football team is the Falcons discuss the letter Ff.

Second, make it playful and challenging. Use hands-on activities, songs, movements, and games to stimulate multiple senses. Blocks, play dough, puzzles, and magnetic letters are much more REAL than a worksheet or computer game.

Finally, remember that children take it in and take it in and take it in – and then something comes out! They don’t all learn in the same way at the same time, so you have to provide a variety of opportunities to learn. The key is to keep it fun and make them feel successful.


Envelope Puppets
Seal an envelope and cut it in half as shown. Write the uppercase letter on one side and the lowercase letter on the other side. Sing the “Hokey Pokey” with the letter puppet.

You put your (letter) in,
You take your (letter) out,
You put your (letter) in
And you shake it all about.
You make the (letter sound)
And then you put it down.

*Listen up! Tell children when you say words starting with that sound they can hold up their puppet. When you say a word that doesn’t start with that sound they should keep the puppet in their lap.

*Have children write a letter on one side and draw an animal that begins with that sound on the reverse side.


*I Have - Who Has Alphabetical Order?
Seal 13 envelopes, cut them in half, and then write the letters of the alphabet on the envelopes. Pass out one or two envelopes to each child and have the child with A say: I have A. Who has B?
The child with B says: I have B. Who has C? And so forth.

*Let children hold up their letter as you sing different alphabet songs.

*Use these puppets to make CVC words.

Paper Plate Puppets
Staple two paper plates together 3/4 of the way around. Write a large uppercase letter on one side and a lowercase letter on the other side. Or, just write the uppercase and lowercase together on one side. Children wear these on their hands and hold them up when their letter is sung in an alphabet song.

*You can also use these to make CVC words or sight words.

Here's a video where you can watch me demonstrate some of these activities.