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Thursday, August 31, 2023


I repeat this blog every year before football season begins. Sorry, but I LOVE the game and this time of year.  "Hope springs eternal" before the season begins - so right now we've all got a winning season and dreams of the championship!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Make stick puppets from favorite players' photos.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2023


Have ever heard a parent say, "Oh, I would never give my child scissors because they might hurt themselves or they might cut their clothes."  You might be surprised if you interviewed your class like this teacher!
Mrs. Jones 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.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023


Children can have fun as they practice pre-writing strokes and train their eyes to go from the top to the bottom and left to right.

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.

Pencil Stories
Pencil stories using story symbols can 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.

Here's an easy version I would try with the little ones to encourage them to go from left to right and make a few strokes.

Let's go for a walk. (horizontal)

The sun is shining down. (vertical)

The wind is blowing. (slant)

Here come some raindrops. (circle)

I hear thunder. (X)

Time to run home! (horizontal)

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.

Write Round the Mulberry Bush
Here's another great pre-writing activity for the beginning of the school year called “Writing Round the Mulberry Bush.” I clearly remember where I got this idea. About 20 years ago I was doing a workshop in Huntsville, Texas. A young teacher said, “My mentor needs to tell you how she teaches handwriting. Her kids have the best handwriting in the school.” Well, she grabbed my attention and when I asked the older teacher her secret she smiled and said they practiced “Writing Round the Mulberry Bush” several weeks before introducing letters.

Basically, you have children make the strokes as shown on a blank piece of paper as they sing the different verses to the song “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.” It makes sense because children need to go from top to bottom and left to right as they learn to master simple strokes.

Here's a link if you're interested. Click to download pdf file.

Note! According to most experts, these are the developmental stages for writing.

1st vertical line
2nd horizontal line
3rd circle
4th cross
5th square
6th diagonal
7th X
8th triangle

Sand Tray
Let children use a sand or rice tray to practice making basic strokes.

Monday, August 28, 2023


It's important to encourage children to use the correct pencil grip when they begin to write. Here are tips for teachers and parents in class, online, anytime!!!

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 seat belt 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

Palm Writing
Children take their "magic finger" write on the opposite palm. They can make shapes, letters, numbers, or even write words. Make sure they "erase" (rub palm) in between.


Sunday, August 27, 2023


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

(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:

Saturday, August 26, 2023


How about some ideas for geometry? You can use these activities with young children or school age by adapting the shapes. You might even “spy” some of your state standards here!!!

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.)

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

*Have children draw shapes in the air with elbows, feet, noses, and other body parts.

*Place foam shapes or 3-dimensional shapes in a bottle filled with sand or salt. Children spin it around and try to identify the shapes. Can they draw the different shapes that they spy?

Body Shapes
Divide children into small groups and challenge them to lay on the floor and make various shapes with their bodies. How many friends will it take to make a triangle? A square? A pentagon? Take pictures and make a book.

*Make spyglasses for “spying” shapes by wrapping construction paper around paper towel rolls.

*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?

*Cut sponges into geometric shapes and have children dip them in paint and stamp on paper.

*Download highway shapes from Children can drive around these with toy cars or they can roll play dough and place it on the shapes.

*Go on a walk and look for shapes in your school and on the playground.

Shape Book
Fold two sheets of paper in half and staple. Children decorate the front of their book with shapes. Next, they walk around the room and draw shapes that they see. Can they label the shapes?
*This would be a good homework activity to help children be more aware of the shapes around their home.

Play Dough Book
Draw lines, curves, and geometric shapes with a marker on file folders. Laminate. Bind file folders with rings to make a book. Children roll play dough and place it on top of the shapes.

Offer children pipe cleaners, Wikki stix, etc. and challenge them to make various shapes with the items.

Pretzel Shapes
Give children pretzel sticks and pretzel twists and challenge them to make geometric shapes. How many pretzel sticks will you need to make a hexagon? How many pretzel sticks will you need to make a triangle?

*Challenge them to make letters with the pretzels. This is fun to do with a partner as they take turns making letters and identifying them.

Friday, August 25, 2023


Counting is a basic strand across math standards. There’s even research that suggests counting with pre-k children can build math concepts they will use later on in kindergarten and primary grades. Counting will have more meaning if you tie it into finger plays, songs, and movements.

Macarena Count to 100
1 (Right arm out palm down.)
2 (Left arm out palm down.)
3 (Right palm up.)
4 (Left palm up.)
5 (Right hand on left shoulder.)
6 (Left hand on right shoulder.)
7 (Right hand behind head.)
8 (Left hand behind head.)
9 (Right hand on left hip.)
10 (Left hand on right hip.)
(Clap two times.)
That is one ten. (Hold up one finger.)
11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 (clap clap)
That is two tens.

Pump Up to 100
Pretend to hold weights as you count.
1-20 - bicep curls (Elbows in, pretend to hold weights in fists with palms up as you bring forearms up and down.)
21-40 - for overhead press (Fists face forwards as you start at your shoulders and push the weights overhead.)
41-60 – side raises (Elbows at 90% angles as you raise them out to the side.)
61-80 – upright rows (Fists together close to the body and raise elbows out and up until fists are at your heart.)
81-100 – frontal raises - (Fists together and arms stiff as you raise them in front of your body to eye level.)
Whew! (Wipe brow!!!)

Little Red Number Box
(Sarah Wilson)
Put magnetic numbers in a metal tin and then sing the song as you pull out a number. Then count to that number.
For example: I wish I had a little tin box to put a 6 in. I’d take it out and count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and put it back in.

Move and Count

Have children count as they jump, hop, and do other movements.

*Count the steps to the lunchroom.
*Count how long it takes everyone to sit down quietly.
*Count the number of chairs in the room, tables, toys, girls, boys, dragons (that's a joke!) etc.

Giant Number Line
Attach a piece of tape to the floor in a prominent place in your classroom. Let children walk on it forwards, backwards, hop, etc. After playing with the line, ask them to sit on the floor. Explain that you’re going to turn it into a number line as you demonstrate writing numbers (0-10) on the tape.
*Ask one child at a time to walk on the number line as they say each number.
*Call out different numbers and ask random students to stand on those numbers. What is one more? What is one less?
*Give students dot cards (0-10) and ask them to match their card with the number on the line.

Country Countdown 1-20

Tell the kids to put on their cowboy and cowgirl boots and hats before you begin.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 (Heel tap left and right as you count.)

Turn around and count back down. (Turn around.)
20 19 18 …..

*Why should you ask children to count forwards and backwards? This will help them understand one more, one less, and so forth.

Thursday, August 24, 2023


"Fiveness" and "tenness" are important to developing number sense. We can do this naturally with finger plays involving five and ten.

One small noodle (Hold up one finger.)
On my noodle plate.
Salt and pepper,
Tastes just great. (Pretend to shake salt.)
Mother’s going to the store.
Mother, mother, get some more.


*Cut five small holes out of a paper plate and insert your fingers as you say the rhyme.

Five Little Ducks
Five little ducks (Hold up 5 fingers.)
Went out to play
Over the hills (Move hand up and down.)
And far away. (Put hand over your eyes as if looking.)
When the mother duck called,
“Quack, quack, quack!” (Put palms together and open and shut.)
Four little ducks (Hold up 4 fingers.)
Came waddling back.

No little ducks went out to play (Make fist.)
Over the hills and far away.
When the daddy duck called,
“QUACK! QUACK! QUACK!” (Open and close arms and say loudly.)
Five little ducks came waddling back.

*Staple the sides of a file folder and glue felt to the front to make a flannel board. Cut ducks or other figures out of felt to use as visuals for finger plays.

Alligator and Monkeys
Five little monkeys (Hold up 5 fingers.)
Swinging from a tree,
Teasing Mr. Alligator, (Point finger as if teasing.)
“Can’t catch me!
You can’t catch me!” (Shake head “no.”)
Along came Mr. Alligator (Put palms together and slowly
Quiet as can be, move like an alligator.)
And snatched a monkey (Open and clap palms as if
Right out of the tree! chomping on something.)

“Missed me, missed me!
Now you gotta kiss me!” (Put hands on side of your head and wiggle.)

*Attach stickers to craft sticks to make puppets for finger plays.
*Choose one child to be the alligator and five other children to be the monkeys and act out the rhyme.

Five Little Hotdogs
Five little hotdogs (Hold up 5 fingers.)
Frying in the pan.
The grease got hot,
And one went BAM! (Clap hands.)
Four little hotdogs… (Hold up 4 fingers.)
Three little hotdogs… (Hold up 3 fingers.)
Two little hotdogs… (Hold up 2 fingers.)
One little hotdog… (Hold up 1 finger.)
No little hotdogs (Hold up fist.)
Frying in the pan.
The pan got hot,
And it went BAM! (Clap hands and say the last word loudly.)

*Draw the shape of a pan on a file folder. Cut a 6" slit across the center as shown. Cut hotdogs out of construction paper and tape to spring clothespins.
*Write numbers on plastic plates and have children make the appropriate number of hotdogs from play dough.

*Change “hotdogs” to “sausages.” Or, change the rhyme to popcorn and say:
Five little kernels sizzling in the pot.
The grease got hot and one went POP!”

Gummy Bears
Down at the candy shop what did I see?
Five little gummy bears smiling at me.
Along came (child’s name) with a penny one day.
He/she bought the green one and took it away.

Down at the candy shop what did I see?
Four little gummy bears smiling at me.
Along came (child's name) with a penny one day.
He/she bought the red one and took it away.
*Cut gummy bears out of construction paper. Choose five children to hold the bears. Distribute paper pennies to five other children and use their names as you say the rhyme.

Ten Little Friends
Ten little friends (Hold up fingers.)
Went out to play (Wiggle.)
On a very bright
And sunny day.
And they took a little walk.
Walk, walk, walk. (Walk fingers in front of your body.)
And they had a little talk.
Talk, talk, talk. (Put fingertips together.)
They climbed a great big hill (Move fingers over your head.)
And stood on the top very still. (Keep hands still.)
Then they all tumbled down (Roll hands around and down.)
And fell to the ground.
We’re so tired, (Hold up fingers.)
They all said.
So they all went home
And went to bed.
10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – (Put down fingers one at a time as you
5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1. count backwards and lower your voice.)
Good night! (Lay head on hands.)

Wednesday, August 23, 2023


Don’t you just love tools that you can use in lots of different ways? It’s like my kitchen scissors. I couldn’t live without them to open packages, snip herbs, trim meat, cut veggies, etc. Just like tools in your kitchen, I have some handy math tools that you will be able to use in creating multi-sensory experiences in a variety of ways with a variety of skill levels.

Brain Beads
Brain beads are a simple tool that can be used to reinforce counting in a concrete way. You will need pipe cleaners and pony beads. Knot one end of the pipe cleaner. String on 10 beads. Knot the other end.

Slide the beads to the left and then move them over one at a time to the right as you count.

*Flip the pipe cleaner over so the beads are on the left again and count from 11-20. Continue flipping the pipe cleaner and counting higher.

*Slide all the beads at once and count “ten.” Flip it over and slide all the beads as you say “twenty.” Continue counting by ten’s by sliding all ten beads at one time.

Friends of Ten
How many ways can you make ten?

Number Stories
Use the beads for addition and subtraction problems.

Number Bracelets
Make bead bracelets for different quantities. Match the colors of the pipe cleaners to the colors of the beads. For example, you could make a purple bracelet with 6 purple beads and ask the children to show how many ways they could make six.

*Challenge students to write down the different ways to make six.

Shape and Number Sticks

These math sticks are easy to make and can be used in many ways. You’ll need magnetic numbers and shapes, jumbo craft sticks, and a strong glue (such as E6000). Glue the numbers and shapes to the sticks and you are all set!

Number Recognition

Pass out sticks to children. Can they walk around the room and match up their number with classroom print? Can they match their number with that amount of objects in the classroom?

*Let children hold up appropriate sticks as you sing or say number rhymes.

Numerical Order
Can children get in order from 0-9?

*Pass out sticks and play “I have___? Who has ___?”

Can You Find?
Children walk around the room and find a number less than theirs. Can they find a number that’s greater? Can they find a number that’s the same?

Number Friends
Call out a number. Students have to find a friend whose stick added to theirs makes the sum. Record the different combinations.

Shape Hunt

Pass out shape sticks for children to match in the classroom. Are the shapes flat or solid?

Walk around the school and look for shapes.

Here's a video where I demonstrate some of my favorite math tools.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

I CAN READ! Environmental Print

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.