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Wednesday, August 31, 2022


If you are a college football fan like we are, this is an exciting time of year. 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.

Math - 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.

Art – 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.

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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022


Make this A YOGA YEAR by incorporating some of these strategies. Yoga has health benefits, as well as learning benefits. "Mindfulness" is a buzz word in education, and yoga might be just the trick to help children focus and relax. You could use these strategies in the morning or as brain breaks throughout the day.

Yoga Letters
There are several videos where yoga poses are related to the alphabet. Wouldn't it be fun to incorporate yoga poses with phonics? Here's a poster that you can download free:

Yoga Shapes
I loved the yoga poses for kids I found on this website:

Monument Poses
Linda Smith shared this idea for tying in MONUMENT POSES with social studies standards.

Statue of Liberty – One arm up holding the torch and the other arm holding a book with feet apart.

Washington Monument – Feet together and arms up and with pointed fingers.
Honest Abe – Sitting position with arms out as if on a chair.
Mount Rushmore – Legs apart with chin under fist and switch sides.
The Arch – Arms in an arc twice overhead.
Liberty Bell – Arms down swinging side to side as you say, “Bong, bong, bong, crack!”

Superhero Yoga
And, wouldn’t your students love doing this Superhero Yoga that Charley Schillinger does with her students?
Superman – Do a plank.
Wonder Woman – Sit in an invisible chair.
Spiderman – Feet together and squat.
Batman – Arms out and one leg up.
Captain America - Squat with legs apart and stretch arms over head and behind as if extending a shield.
Flash Lunges - One foot in front and lean forward and touch the floor.
Black Widow - Take turns stretching out your arms.
Iron Man Pose - Stand straight and look up towards the sky.

Morning Stretch
Several teachers have told me how my “Morning Stretch” really helps their students focus and get ready to start each day.

Here are some personal insights on yoga from my friend Drew Giles:

As a certified yoga instructor for both adults and kids, I have learned firsthand the benefits of teaching yoga and mindfulness to kids. Yoga is the coming together of mind (thoughts and feelings) and physical body. It’s a form of tactile and kinesthetic learning, which is the most basic child-centric learning style. Yoga can enable your students (and yourself!) to be more attentive and focused for learning. As a quick energizer, even one yoga pose done with purposeful breathing for just one minute will oxygenate the blood and lift the energy level of your students. Contrary to sceptics, yoga is not a religion. The practice of yoga was built on spirituality and the promotion of being kind and compassionate towards yourself and others. It is not a religion and does not judge religions.

Some of the benefits include:
• Increases self-esteem
• Improves behavior, less discipline problems
• Invites a calm atmosphere
• Increases physical and mental awareness
• Provides opportunity for discovery and fun
• Improves motor development on both sides of the body
• Relieves stress, anxiety and anger
• Improves self-control

In a School Setting, yoga can also benefit educators by:
• Giving educators an alternate way to handle challenges in the classroom
• Giving educators a healthy activity to integrate with lesson plans
• Gives educators a way to blend exerciseinto their classes

Ready to incorporate yoga in your classroom?! Here are a few fun tips.
· Make the yoga class fun! Let go of thinking what a traditional yoga class may look like. A kids’ yoga class is all about moving in mindful and silly ways, learning how to pay attention to the breath and having a good time.
· Follow the children’s lead. Most yoga poses were created to celebrate the world around us. Ask the kids to come up with poses for common animals or things they see in nature.
· Be flexible and come up with a thoughtful lesson plan.
· Kids yoga should be voluntary; never force children to do yoga. If a few kids are not interested, simply allow them to watch the class do yoga.
· Give clear and concise verbal and visual directions.

How to come up with a simple yoga lesson plan:
· Start your yoga session by creating a safe and friendly environment
· Focus on the breath, it’s a great way to transition from spending time on the playground or coming back from lunch.
· Next, moving into warms ups – stretch side to side or stand in a tabletop position on hands and needs, arch the back like a cat with your head looking at your belly button, lower your belly, look up as you breathe in like a cow staring at the sky.
· Focus on the body, you can do some sun salutations and build heat in your body. This allows your body to breakdown stagnant fluids and bring in new, nutrient-rich cells.
· After 5-10 minutes of body work, move into a cool down, long stretches – see if you can touch your shins, ankles or toes!
· Finally, reap in the benefits by laying down motionless on your mat of the floor. This is an essential part of yoga and should never be skipped

A few last tips for success:
· Learn and practice the lesson plan before you teach it.
· Be prepared with extra activities. You never know which ideas may be a flop or a hit.
· Start slow – when first introducing yoga to the class – offer a few, simple movements during a transition period and build the amount of time up to 45 minutes! Yes, it’s possible!
· Be present and have a positive attitude. The kids will feed off your energy.
· Appreciate and enjoy the kids where they are at. Always phrase assistance positively like "How about this way?" or "Let's do this!"

There are a lot of great resources out there. Pinterest, Omazing Kids LLC, Kidding Around Yoga, Kids Yoga Stories are a few of my favorites. I did my kids yoga teaching certificate through Next Generation Yoga. Hint! They offer current educators a 50% discount! (Tell them Drew sent you!)

Reach out to me if you have any questions.

Monday, August 29, 2022


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.

The Numeral Song 
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:

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, August 28, 2022


I hope these letter limericks that my daughter wrote many years ago will still be "alive" in your classrooms...and will make writing letters come ALIVE!  

By Dr. Holly

Small a is a great way to start.
It’s made of two joined parts.
First a small circle round
Then a small line straight down
For airplanes, apples, and art.

So bouncy and bold is small b,
With a line straight and tall as can be.
Then a circle that’s small
That looks like a ball.
You can bat, bubble, bop, with a b!

Small c is a cute buttercup;
Make a circle but don’t close it up.
Leave a space on the side
Like a mouth open wide
For eating cookies and coconuts!

For d make a tall line on the right,
Then a small circle down low and tight.
It’s similar to b
But backwards, you see,
For doughnuts, delicious, delight!

Every e starts like a c, you know.
Circle up and around, here we go.
Then a nice even line.
That looks just fine.
E is for eager and eyes that glow.

Small f hooks right up at the top
Then down to the bottom it drops.
A small line cross the middle,
And fit as a fiddle,
Your f will not fidget or flop!

With g you can gallop and go
And the grass in your garden will grow.
First a circle on the ground,
Then a line stretches down
Just like a fishhook below.

Making h isn’t horribly hard.
Make a tall line straight down for the start.
Then next to it bumps
The hip of a hump
And you’ll hop with a happy heart!

Small i is so sweet to make,
Like ice cream or icing a cake.
Make a short line then stop,
Put a dot on the top,
And into the oven to bake!

Small j likes to joke, jive, and jog
And jump around just like a frog.
With a line that drops down
And hooks underground
Then a dot on its top—perfect job!

Small k starts with a tall, straight spine
Then out kick two smaller slant lines.
One kicks up, one kicks down
For the k-k-k sound
That starts kites, kids, and kisses so kind.

Small l is a likeable letter
Lean and light as a feather.
A single tall line
So straight and fine—
For laughter and love there’s none better!

Small m is magnificently wide
A short line then two humps side by side
For monkeys and marbles,
Magic and marvels,
And motorcycles, let’s take a ride!

Small n is one half of m.
Make a short straight line and then
A single small hump
To give it a bump
For a nice, neat, and nifty small n.

Small o is a round cheerio
Rolled on the ground down low.
Keep your pencil pressed down
And take it around
For octopus and ostrich, you know.

Next comes polite letter p
As pretty and proud as you please.
A long line that drops
Down below, and then pop
A circle beside it—whopee!

Small q is quiet and quick.
It’s like p, but with a trick.
It’s the other way ‘round
And the line that goes down
Ends with a quaint, quirky kick.

Now we’ve reached rock’ n’ roll r
And everyone can be a star!
Make a short line, then look—
At the top a small hook,
And your rip, roaring r will go far!

Small s is swirley and steep.
Arch up to the middle and sweep
Down to the end
With another round bend
For swinging and singing so sweet!

Next we’ll try t: don’t delay!
Start high up but not all the way.
Then down you drop,
Put a small line across,
For terrific, tip-top days!

Small u is like n upside down.
Curve down and then back up around.
Add a line on the right,
Straight, short and tight
For upside and underground.

Small v is very victorious
And making v isn’t laborious:
Two short lines slant out
From the bottom they spout
Like two arms raised to say: I am glorious!

Small w is two v’s together
For why, what, where, and whether
Slant down, up, and then
Slant down, up again
And you’ve written a wonderful letter!

Small x makes your xylophone play
And it expertly makes an x-ray.
Two lines that are little
Cross right at the middle.
You can exit and go on your way!

We’re nearing the end with small y:
For yes, yarn, and years that fly by
A short line slants down,
Another slants underground,
And they meet at a point to say hi.

Small z is for zany and zounds;
It’s short and sits right on the ground.
Straight out, slant down, then
Go straight out again
And you’ll zigzag, and zip all around!

Note!!  Years ago someone told me if you want children to remember something they need to sing it or eat it. Are you hungry for some letters?
Pretzel ABC’s - Give children pretzel sticks and pretzel twists. Have them nibble the pretzels to make letters.

Squirt and Eat - Use squirt cheese to make letters on crackers. Lick the letters with your tongue.

Alphabet Cereal, Crackers, and Pretzels - Letter shaped snack foods can be used for identifying letters, making words, or eating!

Letter Snacks – Assign each child a letter and a day to bring a snack for the class. Ask parents to send in a fruit, vegetable, or healthy food that begins with their letter. Take photographs and use them to make a class alphabet book.

P.S.  I know some schools have banned food in the classroom, so you might send these activities home in a newsletter for parents to do with their child.

Saturday, August 27, 2022


I know that many of you are working on letter writing this time of year, so I thought Dr. Holly's “Letter Limericks” might be just the rhyme you need to put the strokes in children's brains.

*Use air writing, tummy writing, and other strategies to keep children interested.

Note! You'll find limericks for the lowercase letters tomorrow. Pick and choose for however you introduce the letters. 

The first is a letter called A
With straight lines in every way.
Two lines point up top,
To the bottom they drop,
And another crosses the way.

The second letter is B
For baseball, baby, and beach.
Straight line down the side,
Two humps on the right—
It looks like a fat bumble bee!

After B comes C:
Cookies, celery, and cheese!
Like a smile big and wide
Turned on its side
It’s easy to make C, you see!

D is a letter that’s plump
Like a tummy with one round hump.
A long line straight down,
Then go out and around
For dig, dive, dip and dump!

After D comes E.
It’s shaped like a comb with three teeth.
One line down the side,
Three more to the right
For echoes, ears, eyeballs and eat!

F is the next letter to name.
It can bring with it fortune and fame.
Like E in design
Without the bottom line
But it gets along fine all the same!

After F comes G
Which is curvy and round just like C.
When you reach the end stop,
Put a straight line across
And your G will giggle with glee!

H is a letter with pride.
It has two long straight lines side by side
Then hip, hop, and higgle
Put another ‘cross the middle
And your H will have nothing to hide!

I comes after that,
Eating ice cream, and yet it’s not fat.
One line stretches down,
One lies on the ground
And one goes on top—a flat hat!

Now jump, joke, and juggle— it’s J
With lines both curvy and straight.
The curve starts up top
Then like a hook drops
And the straight line juts over the way!

The letter K has quite a kick
With a spine as straight as a stick.
From the middle about
Two arms reach out
For kangaroos, kindness, and kids!

After K comes L
It’s a letter with lots to tell.
One line heads straight down,
One sticks out on the ground
Like a chair with no legs—how swell!

M is a letter with size,
Like two mountains side by side.
Two straight lines on the end
Two others point in
Making moms, milk, and messes—oh, my!

N is like M only thinner.
It didn’t eat quite as much dinner—
For Nick and Noelle
Two lines parallel
And a diagonal one ‘cross the center.

O is entirely round—
Not a single straight line to be found.
Like a wide open mouth
Saying oops! oh! or ouch!
It makes oceans and oranges abound!

The next of the letters is P
For people and peanuts and please.
Let one straight line prop
With a loop on the top
And you’ll make lots of pumpkins and peas!

Q comes next without fail
With quarters, quick questions, and quails:
First a circle that’s fat
Then like the back of a cat
A straight line sticks out like a tail.

R is ever so clever.
It’s P and K blended together:
The top hoops about
The bottom leg kicks out—
For running and reading there’s no better!

S is a letter with style
For summer, sunshine, and smiles.
Go up and around
Then back around down
Like a snake that slithers for miles!

T is terrific and true
Standing tall as all towers do.
One straight line sits over,
The other points lower
For tigers, trees, and tickles too!

U comes right after T.
It also comes just before V—
An upside down hump
A straight line it bumps:
Unicorn, universe, unique!

V is very healthy—it’s true!
With vitamins and vegetables for you:
Two straight lines point down
And meet at the ground
For vacations and violins, too!

W is just like 2 Vs
Stuck together—like twins, you see.
With why, when, and where?
And who will be there?
W makes words work with ease!

X is the letter that’s next.
Not many words start with an X
But X marks the spot
With two straight lines that cross—
X is never quite what you expect!

The next-to-last letter is Y
For years and yes, give it a try!
Like a small V that sits
On top of a stick
Reaching for the yellow sun in the sky!

Z comes last for a reason
Bringing zeal, zap, and zest to all seasons.
One straight line slants down
Then at foot and at crown
Two other lines zip—very pleasing!

Friday, August 26, 2022


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.

Thursday, August 25, 2022


Many, many years ago when I was doing a workshop there was a younger teacher sitting next to an older teacher. The younger teacher said to her friend, "Tell Dr. Jean how you teach your kids handwriting. Your kids are the best writers in the school."

The older teacher smiled and said, "We write round the mulberry bush." She then went on to tell me how they practice making strokes for weeks before she teaches them how to form letters. She demonstrated how they learn to go from top to bottom and left to write as they sing the song. They do a different stroke for each verse.

Note! I think a key to this is "purposeful practice for automaticity." By repeating this every day children are able to master these basic strokes.

Here we go round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush.
Here we go round the mulberry bush so early in the morning.
(Pick up your pencil and place it at the top left corner.)

This is the way we wash our clothes, wash our clothes, wash our clothes.
This is the way we wash our clothes so early Monday morning. (Make vertical lines.)
(I explain how people used to scrub their clothes on a wash board.)

This is the way we iron our early Tuesday morning. (Make horizontal lines.)
(Some children don't know what an iron is, so this is a good chance to explain and demonstrate.)

This is the way we scrub the early Wednesday morning. (Draw circles.)
(Explain when you scrub you go around in circles with the brush.)

This is the way we mend our early Thursday morning. (Make a cross.)
(Show a button that has been sewn on with a vertical and horizontal stitch.)

This is the way we sweep the early Friday morning. (Diagonal lines.)
(Pretend to hold a broom and sweep in a diagonal fashion.)

This is the way we bake our early Saturday morning. (Make X.)
(Pretend to hold a rolling pin and show how you move it from top to bottom in a slanted way.)

This is the way we smile and early Sunday morning. (Draw a smiley.)

Pencil Stories
Pencil stories are a similar way to help children develop top to bottom and left-to-right orientation. They’re also an engaging way to develop small motor skills. These stories should be told multiple times so children can practice the pre-writing strokes and feel more competent. You might want to do the same story every day for a week as you invite the children to recall what will come next. You could also make a tape of the story to put in a listening center. Demonstrate these stories on the board or a large chart so children will be able to copy what you do.

Here's an easy version for the the little ones. Just to get them to go from left to right and make a few strokes would be a good beginning.

An Autumn Walk (More challenging)
Let’s take an autumn walk. (horizontal)
The leaves are falling down. (vertical)
Ooooo! Do you hear the wind blow? (diagonal)
There’s some kids throwing the football. (diagonal other direction
The crickets are chirping. (X)
The squirrels are digging holes for their nuts. (zig zag line)
The birds are migrating south. (curvy line)
The scarecrows are standing in the fields. (t)
The pumpkins are getting ripe on the vine. (o)
Time to put on sweaters and hats. (triangle)
What a happy time of year! (smiley face)

Hint! Put a green line down the left side to show them where to start and a red line down the right side to indicate where they should stop.

*Older children would probably get a kick out of creating their own “pencil talk” stories.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022


Training eyes to move from left to right and then reverse sweep is a key to beginning reading and writing. A simple, yet powerful way, that teachers can do this is through modeling. Make it a habit to sweep your hand from left to right under words or lines of print on charts, big books, white boards, and so forth.

Right & Left Song
(Tune: “Up on the Housetop”)
Here is my right hand way up high.
(Hold up right hand.)
Here is my left hand touch the sky.
(Hold up left hand.)
Right and left and roll out of sight.
(Roll hands around.)
Now I know my left and right.
(Hold up left and then right.)

Hint! Focus on the right hand because then what is “left” over will be their left.

Put a sticker on each child’s right hand and then play “Simon Says” or the “Hokey Pokey.”

Let children make bracelets out of pipe cleaners and wear them on their right hand. Throughout the day call attention to their right hand…right ear…right leg…right foot, etc.
Rub lotion or scented lip balm on each child’s right hand.

Trace around your right hand on construction paper and cut it out. Place it near the flag so children can visually match up their right hand and then place it over their hearts.

Hold up your hands and stick out thumbs and index fingers as you say:
Which is my left? Which is my right?
Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
But when I stick my thumbs out straight,
My left will make an “L.”

Left From Right(Anthony Corbo aka “Mr. Kindergarten” taught me this song.)
(Tune: “Mary Had a Little Lamb”)
I want to learn my left from right,
Left from right, left from right.
I want to learn my left from right,
I try with all my might.
The left hand makes the letter L,
Letter L, letter L.
The left hand makes the letter L,
Hurray, now I can tell!

Tracking Left to Right

Draw tracks on sentence strips similar to the ones shown. Children can drive cars or move animals from left to right.

Hint! Make a green dot where they are to begin and a red dot where they should end.

Top to Bottom Song (Dawna Hunter)
(Tune: “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”)
Top to bottom,
Left to right.
Top to bottom,
Left to right.
My mind knows that writing always goes
Top to bottom,
Left to right.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022


It's important to encourage children to use the correct pencil grip when they begin to write. Here are some tips teachers have shared with me.

Silly Band
Give children a silly band (or rubber band) to go around their wrist. Pick up your pencil and then slip the end of the silly band around the pencil. Explain when you go in the car you wear your seat belt, and when you write you need to put a seatbelt around your pencil. Then you’ll have mom and dad in the front seat and the kids in the back seat!

Place a pompom or cotton ball in a child's hand. Demonstrate how to put pinky and ring man to “sleep” on the pompom before picking up the pencil.

Writing Bracelet
String a bead or jingle bell to a piece of yarn or string to make a bracelet. Make it loose enough so it can slide easily on and off a child’s wrist. While writing the child wears the bracelet and holds the bead in her hand.

Bird’s Beak
Point the pencil away from you. Make a bird’s beak by opening and closing your index finger and thumb. Use your beak to pick up the point of the pencil and then flip it back.

Pencil Grip(Melissa Connelly)
Teach children to hold their crayon or pencil correctly with this trick.

Draw a smiley face on their hand as shown. When they use their pincer fingers their hand will always be smiling at them.

Pencil Grip Song (Tune: “Where Is Thumbkin?”)
Where is Pointer?
On the top.
Ready to write.
Start at the top.
Where is Thumbkin?
On the side.
Ready to help
Your pencil glide.
Where is Tallman?
On the bottom.
Keeps the letters
Where you want ‘em.

Want a free download of this song. Here you go!

Monday, August 22, 2022


We are putting THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE when it comes to having children write. Believe it or not, we didn't even teach children to write in kindergarten in the "old days." Lined paper and handwriting were part of the first grade curriculum. Children's hands and small motor skills haven't changed, but our expectations certainly have!!

There are several basic strokes that children need to draw before expecting them to make a letter or number. In order of development, the strokes are a vertical line, a horizontal line, a circle, a cross, a square, a diagonal line, an X, and a triangle. Here are some multi-sensory materials where children can experiment and practice making the pre-writing strokes.

Sensory Tub

Fill the bottom of a plastic tub with sand, rice, salt, grits, or another sensory material. Encourage children to make the strokes in the tub.

*Squirt shaving cream on a laminated table top or lunchroom tray. After free exploration, encourage children to practice making strokes.

Play Dough Book
Use file folders to make this book. On one file folder write “Can you make lines?” and draw lines. On another folder write, “Can you make curves?” and draw curves.

Write “Can you make shapes?” on another file folder. Make other objects and shapes for children to reproduce on additional folders. Laminate. Hole punch and bind the folders with book rings.

*Let children use play dough, Wikki Stix, and other materials to reproduce lines, curves, and shapes.

Connect the Dots
Use a marker to make dotted strokes. Put a drop of glue on top of each dot. Dry. Children trace over the dots of glue with their finger. 

Hint! Make the first dot green and the last dot red to indicate where to start and stop.

Plastic Needlepoint Canvas
This plastic material that looks like screen can be purchased at most craft stores.

Place a piece of paper on top and then make strokes and shapes with a crayon. Press firmly for best results. Trace over with your finger.

Rainbow Writing
Make strokes with a black marker. Children take different colors or crayons or markers and trace in multiple colors.

• Make giant pre-writing strokes on chart paper and tape to a wall. Encourage children to work together to make “rainbows” from the shapes.

Sidewalk Chalk

Provide children with chalk so they can practice strokes, shapes, and letters on paved surfaces.

Turn off the lights, give children a flashlight, and let them make shapes and letters on the wall.

Horizontal, Vertical Song
(Carrie O’Bara and Terri Miller) (Tune: “Where Is Thumbkin?”)
Horizontal, horizontal, (Forearms held up horizontally in front of chest.)
Vertical, vertical. (Forearms bent at elbows to form right angles.)
Horizontal, horizontal, Vertical, vertical.
Then diagonal, then diagonal. (Right arm slants in front and then left.)
Add a curve. Add a curve. (Make a “c” with right hand and then left.)
Then diagonal, then diagonal.
Add a curve. Add a curve.

Sunday, August 21, 2022


One teacher said at the beginning of the school year she asked the children how many of them had their own computer, and most raised their hands. She asked how many of them had their own TV, and again, most raised their hands. Finally she asked how many of them had their own pair of scissors, and just a few raised their hands.

Those of us who have been teaching for many years have seen a dramatic decrease in small motor skills. Children just aren’t cutting, drawing, playing with play dough, stringing beads, working puzzles, or doing other manipulative activities. We not only need to engage children in these motor skills at school, but we need to remind parents of projects their children can do at home.

Cutting Tub
Ask parents to use a shoebox or purchase a plastic tub at a dollar store. Insert safety scissors, junk mail, old greeting cards, wrapping paper, etc. in the tub. When parents are busy cooking dinner they can get out the tub to entertain their child.

Tummy Cutting
Have children lay on the floor and prop themselves on their elbows. If they cut in this position, their elbow will stabilize their arm and give them greater scissor control.


*Wad up two sheets of paper and put one under each arm. As children keep their arms by their sides they will be able to cut better.

Demonstrate and Model
We have to remember that some children have never had a pair of scissors in their hands before. It’s important to take your time, model, and give explicit directions on basic tasks. Remind children to put your thumbs on top, just like "Tooty Ta," when you cut.
Hold the paper in one hand and take little bites with your scissors with the other hand.

Scisssors Snip
(Tune: “The Caissons Go Rolling Along”)
Cut it out! Cut it out!
With your scissors cut it out.
Snip, snap, and cut it out.
Thumbs on top,
Take small bites.
Hold your page in the other hand tight.
Cut it out! Cut it out!
With your scissors cut it out.
Snip, snap, and cut it out.

Saturday, August 20, 2022



Just think if you were a little kid and you had never held a bottle of glue before. Wouldn’t it be fun to squeeze it all out? Sometimes we forget that children need directions on how to use school materials. Tell children, “We just need to use a baby dot of glue. Not a mama dot or papa dot. Just a tiny, little baby dot.” (Be dramatic with this and say “baby dot” in a high little voice.) Demonstrate how to put a dot on a sheet of paper. “What does that look like? A little bug? A cookie crumb?”

*Put food coloring in a bottle of glue and use it at a center for children to practice making “baby dots.”

If you use glue sticks, you will also need to demonstrate how to use them. “If you barely touch the page you can’t see anything. That means nothing will stick to it. Press it gently down and then look to make sure you can see something. That means your paper will stick.”

School Glue
(Tune: “This Old Man”)
School glue, school glue,
Just a little dot will do.
Put a dot and spread it around.
It will hold your paper down.
School glue, school glue,
Don’t use more than a dab or two.
When it dries up, it will disappear.
Your work will look good never fear.

Glue Ghosts
Someone taught me how to make these years ago and I wanted to pass on the idea to you. Children squirt glue in the shape of a ghost on wax paper. Add googly eyes and let dry overnight. When they are dry, peel off the wax paper, punch a hole, and tie on a string for a necklace. If you didn't want to make ghosts, they could do aliens or other creatures. My kids loved these!


Friday, August 19, 2022


Washing hands can be an effective way to keep you and your children healthy. It might be wise at the beginning of the year to have a discussion about WHEN you should wash your hands. (You have to remember that children come from different homes with different expectation.)

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.

Scrub a Dub
(Tune: "Yellow Bird")
Scrub a dub, rub, rub, a scrub a dub.
Scrub a dub, rub, rub, a scrub a dub.
Germs go down the drain,
And that’s not a shame.
Wash the dirt away,
Get hands clean today.
Soap them up real good,
Rinse them like you should.
And healthy you’ll be!

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

Thursday, August 18, 2022


O.K. It's important to listen to children, but tattling can be like a fire out of control. To prevent negativity/aka “the squeaky wheel” from getting too much attention, it’s important to have a discussion with your class at the beginning of the year about what is an emergency. If someone is in danger of getting hurt, then it’s an emergency. (One teacher said she used the “3 B Principle” – bathroom, blood, or barf!!!) There are also several good books out now that help children understand when it is appropriate to tell the teacher and what happens when you cry wolf. (A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue by Fran Sandon is adorable!)

Check out some of these ideas that teachers have shared with me. And, never ever forget to have a sense of humor!

Leave a Message
Put an old phone on your desk for children to tell their concerns. Explain that you’ll listen to your messages at the end of the day. You might even want to have a directory.
Press #1 for the teacher.
Press #2 for your parents.
Press #3 for the principal.
Press #4 for the President…etc.

Write It
Get a spiral notebook and write “Things the Teacher Needs to Know” on the cover. When children come to tattle hand them the book and say, “Write it all down and don’t leave out a thing.” If they say, “I can’t write,” respond with, “Well, just draw a picture and don’t leave out a thing!”

Comment Box
Put a box, notepad, and pencil on a shelf. Explain that when they want to complain or make a comment they need to write it on a piece of paper. They must start their sentence with a capital letter and end it with a period if they want the teacher to read it at the end of the day.

Lunch Bag
Open a lunch bag and set it on your desk. When children come up to tattle say, “Go put it in the bag. I’ll listen at the end of the day.” (Yes, trust me! They will go over and talk in the bag.) At the end of the day put the bag next to your ear and pretend to listen for 15-20 seconds. Then wad up the bag and throw it in the trash as you say, “That’s the end of that!”

Tell the Mirror
Place a small mirror on your wall and when the children start to tattle say, "Why don't you go tell that little boy/little girl in the mirror?"

Tattle Time
One of my favorite stories about tattle tales came from a teacher many years ago. When her students tried to tattle she’d smile and say, “I’m sorry. Today’s not tattle tale day. Wait until May 14th and then you can tell me.”

Another teacher said she used the concept of an Oreo cookie for tattle tales. The child reporting had to say one nice thing, then the tale, then another nice thing.

Tattle Toy
Choose a stuffed animal or puppet to listen to children’s complaints and tattles. Be sure and name the character. Explain that when you are busy they can always tell Teddy (or whatever) their problems. He’s always there waiting to be their friend.

*You can also let them tell a plant or other inanimate object.

Here’s another great idea for tattle tales. Put a photograph of the President on your wall and say, “I’m just your teacher. Why don’t you tell the President?” You won’t believe it, but the children will walk over and talk to the picture!

Sometimes a sense of humor is the best solution to a problem. Keep calm and laugh inside!