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Thursday, February 29, 2024


A mnemonic device helps you recall how to spell a word or how to remember a string of words or a phrase that stands for more complicated information. I can remember my fourth grade teacher standing at the board saying, “My father taught me how to spell geography by saying: George Elliott’s Oldest Girl Rode A Pig Home Yesterday.” Some days I can’t remember my phone number, but I’ll never forget how to spell geography! I’m sure all of you have had a similar experience and can attest to the power of these clever tricks.

Note!! I know this isn't that meaningful for young children, but you might need to know this if you are ever on "Jeopardy" or if you're helping older children with homework. Besides, I just felt like giving you (and me) a LEAP YEAR break today!

Homes – The Great Lakes are:
Erie, and

My (Mars)
very (Venus)
eager (Earth)
mother (Mars)
just (Jupiter),
served (Saturn)
us (Uranus)
noodles (Neptune).

Roy G. Biv – He’s your friend when it comes to the color spectrum.

Never (North)
Eat (East)
Soggy (South)
Weenies (or Sour Watermelon) West
*Point to the directions as you say this.

Spelling BECAUSE -

Spelling ARITHMETIC (Bridget Weaver)

Eat (Europe)
an (Antarctica)
aspirin (Asia)
after (Africa)
a (Australia)
nutty (North America)
Sandwich (South America).

Months of the Year
Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November.
All the rest have thirty-one excepting February alone;
Which hath but twenty-eight, in fine, till leap year gives it twenty-nine.

*Hold up knuckles on both hands. Point to the knuckles as you name the months. The months with 31 days will be the tall knuckles and the months with 23 or 30 days will be the lower spots in between.

Multiplication by Nine
– Hold up ten fingers.
1 x 9 (One - put down left pinky and nine ones will be left.)
2 x 9 (Two – put down second finger/left pinky and you’ll have 1 ten and 8 ones.)
3 x 9 (Three – third finger down for two tens and seven ones.)
4 x 9 (Four – fourth finger down for three tens and six ones.)
5 x 9 (Thumb down for four tens and five ones.)
6 x 9 (Right thumb down for five tens and four ones.)
7 x 9 (Right pinky down for six tens and three ones.)
8 x 9 (Right middle finger down for seven tens and two ones.)
9 x 9 (Right ring finger down for eight tens and one.)

Do you have any mnemonic devices tucked away in your brain? I’d love to hear about them.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024


You'll definitely want to add this new video that my webmaster (Alex May) has created for you.

There's even a free counting puzzle you can download.

Did You Ever See a Lassie?

(Traditional Tune - I remember doing this as a kindergartener in 1952, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I bet your kids might enjoy it just as much - and it's something that you could do virtually or in person.)

Children form a circle as you explain that a "lassie" is a girl and a "laddie" is a boy. A girl is chosen to be the "lassie." She gets in the middle of the circle and makes a funny motion that the others must mimic as you sing. The girl then chooses a "laddie" to stand in the middle and make a motion. The game continues as girls and boys take turns leading in the game.

Did you ever see a lassie, a lassie, a lassie?
Did you ever see a lassie go this way and that?
Go this way and that way,
Go this way and that way.
Did you ever see a lassie go this way and that?

Did you ever see a laddie...

Rainbow Wand
Cut the rim off a paper plate and cut in half as shown. Let children color it like a rainbow and then attach tissue paper streamers. They can use their rainbows as they dance and sing.

St Patrick’s Day!
(Tune: “Sweet Molly Malone”)
On the 17th of March (Point heels on opposite feet as if doing a jig.)
About when spring starts
The lassies and leprechauns
Come out to play.
We’ll find four-leafed clovers (Hold up 4 fingers.)
And wear green all over, (Move hands over clothing.)
And that’s how we’ll celebrate (Put hand in the air as if cheering.)
St. Patrick’s Day!

The legends of old
Say there’re pots of gold (Extend arms in a circle.)
A’ sparkling and shining (Open and close fingers to make sparkles.)
At each rainbow’s end.
The leprechauns know (Point to brain.)
Right where to go,
So if you see a leprechaun (Hand over eyes as if searching.)
Make him your friend!

On the 17th of March
About when spring starts
The lassies and leprechauns
Come out to play.
We’ll find four-leafed clovers
And wear green all over,
And that’s how we’ll celebrate
St. Patrick’s Day!

Tuesday, February 27, 2024


March winds will be blowing soon. Here's some ideas to put in your lesson plans for next month.

Five Little Kites
One, two, three, four, five little kites (Hold up fingers as you count.) Flying up in the sky (Fly fingers in the air.)
Said “hi” to the clouds as they passed by, (Pretend to wave to clouds.)
Said “hi” to the birds, said “hi” to the sun, (Wave.)
Said “hi” to the airplanes, oh what fun. (Wave.)
Then “swish” went the wind, (Move hand down in a
And they all took a dive: swooping motion.)
One, two, three, four, five. (Hold up fingers one at a time and count.)

Paper Plate Kite
Cut the inner section out of a paper plate. Decorate the rim with markers. Glue tissue paper streamers to one side. Punch a hole and tie a piece of string on the other side. Go outside and run to make your kite fly.

Kite Experiments
Let children make kites out of lunch sacks, plastic bags, and other materials. Have them predict which one will fly best. Experiment to see which one is best. Why did some work better than others?
*This might be a good family project.

Kite Tales
Ask each child to write a story about what it would be like to be a kite. What could you see? What could you hear? How would you feel? What would you do?

Lion or Lamb?
Explain the quote, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” Every day ask children what kind of day it is, and then let them color a “lion” or a “lamb” on the calendar. Graph "lion" and "lamb" days and compare at the end of the month.

Month March
I think your class will enjoy exercising and marching as they learn the months with this video.

Monday, February 26, 2024


Tell a Fairy Tale Day is February 26th, but any day is perfect for a fairy tale!
Some people think fairy tales are too violent for young children. And I would agree that some of them are a little twisted and dark. However, most of them aren’t any more violent than Saturday morning cartoons. The bottom line is children have enjoyed these stories for hundreds of years. Proof that a good story is a good story! There is usually a protagonist (good character) that struggles with an evil character. The best part of fairy tales is that they always end happily and good prevails. Many psychologists support fairy tales because they believe children will face “dragons” throughout their lives, and fairy tales give them hope, determination, and strength to defeat their problems.
Let’s see how we can use “Tell a Fairy Tale Day” as a springboard for teaching different types of texts.

What is a fairy tale?
What do children know about fairy tales?
Are they fiction or non-fiction? Why?

How many fairy tales can they name?
Make a list on the board as they call them out.
Go to the library and search for fairy tale books.

Get a storybook (without pictures) and have the children close their eyes as you read to them. Challenge them to make pictures in their brain.
*Stop before the end of the book and ask them to draw pictures of what they think will happen. Compare their predictions with what actually happened by reading the end of the book.
*Read several different versions of the same fairy tale and compare and contrast.
*Compare different illustrations of the same fairy tale.

Creative Activities
Let children dress up like their favorite character from a fairy tale. Encourage them to retell the story and explain why they chose that character.
*Have children make puppets of favorite fairy tale characters from lunch bags, paper plates, or sticks.
*Divide children into small groups and let them act out their favorite scene from a fairy tale.

I was a lucky little girl because I grew up before videos and iPads. I do remember my mother reading to us from this storybook every night. Look at the forward I found when I opened the book! 

This book is my house.
The door is open and I shall enter.
I shall be happy here because my house has so many windows and
my companions are men and women who love me.
Here I will find laughter, love, romance, beauty, and happiness.

Sunday, February 25, 2024


Looking for something cheap, simple, and easy to do in your traditional classroom or to share with your families? A bag of large, dry lima beans, a permanent marker, an Altoids tin, and you are all set to reinforce phonics, sight words, and math concepts.
First, use permanent markers to write the consonants in blue and the vowels in red on the beans.

*Use for making CVC words.
*Use for word families.
*Use for writing word wall words.
*Use for practicing spelling words.
*Use with a friend. One person makes a word and the other person must read it.
*Put the letter beans in alphabetical order.
*Draw ten beans from the tin. How many words can you make with the ten beans? Write them down.

Write numerals in black and math signs in green.

*Put beans in numerical order.
*Sort odd and even numbers.
*Use for greater than and less than.
*Use for addition and subtraction problems.
*Use for place value.
*Make sets.
*Represent number bonds.

Math Bags

Here's another simple activity with lima beans. Draw a line down the middle of a plastic bag with a permanent marker. Insert beans in the bag. Ask the children to count the beans in the bag. Slide the beans from one side to the other to make different combinations. Can they write down the different combinations?

Saturday, February 24, 2024


Need some new "tricks" to help your children focus?

Check Mate
Before starting a lesson, post a checklist of what students will need. As you read down the list, students respond, “Check!” if they are all set.

Pencils? – Check!
Paper? – Check!
Crayons? – Check!
Eyes Watching? – Check!
Ears Listening? – Check!
Hands and Feet Quiet? – Check!

Self Control Cue (Becky Gilsdorf)
Use this visual cue to help children who are out of control.
Cross hands over your chest. (Self)
Slide both hands down the sides of your body. (Control)
As the child repeats the movements silently it will calm them down.

Class Callbacks (Sara Quinn)
Try these callbacks to help children focus:
Teacher says: Hands on top. (Students put their hands on their heads.)
Students say: That means stop!
Teacher says: Holy Moly!
Students say: Guacamole!
Teacher says: All set?
Students say: You bet!

*You can go on all day with callbacks. Marco - Polo; Peanut Butter - jelly; Criss cross – sit like a boss, etc.

Finger Friends (Focus those fidgety hands with this rhyme.)
Two little houses closed up so tight. (Make fists)
Open the windows and let in some light. (Open hands)
Ten little finger friends so tall and straight (Fingers up and wiggle)
Hurry to school so they won’t be late. (Bounce hands)

Self Control Lotion
I recall a teacher who kept a bottle of lotion on her desk and called it “self control lotion.” When her students were having trouble paying attention she would give them a squirt of lotion and tell t
Hint! This would be a great idea for sanitizer lotion.

Friday, February 23, 2024


February 23rd is a big day if you are a dog because it's INTERNATIONAL DOG BISCUIT APPRECIATION DAY. Buzzie (the love of our lives) is going to get some special treats today!

Hint! Some of these activities would be perfect to share with your families who are dog lovers.

Woof! Woof! Game
Make a “Woof! Woof” game. Cut out dog bones and write sight words, math facts, letters, etc. on them. On a few write “Woof! Woof!” Pass the box around and let each child pull out a bone and identify the information. If they select “Woof! Woof!” they have to get down on the floor on all fours and bark like a dog. (They love it!)
*You could even do this virtually, but you'd have to pull out the bones for the children as you rotate around the screen.

Math Manipulatives
Use the dog biscuits for math activities. Add, subtract, make sets, sort… This dog dish with two sections is perfect for tens and ones or onsets and rimes.

Who Let the Letters Out?
Place letters in a dog dish or empty box of dog biscuits. Pull out one letter at a time as you chant:
Who let the D out?
/d/ /d/ /d/ /d/ /d/

Our Pets
Make a book about pets. Cut the front and back off the box and cut paper the size of the box. Give each child a sheet of paper so they can draw a picture of their pet and write or dictate a sentence about it. (If they don’t have a pet they can draw a picture of a pet they would like to have.) Put their pictures between the covers of the box, hole punch, and you’re ready to read.

Puppy Chow Snack
This may not be the healthiest snack, but kids sure would get a kick out of it.

9 cups Rice Chex™, Corn Chex™ or Chocolate Chex™ cereal (or combination)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Measure cereal and set aside.
In 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag.
Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Thursday, February 22, 2024


NATIONAL DAY OF UNPLUGGING was created to inspire people to plug out all the devices of the present technology and to spend some time with their loved ones.

It's officially March 7, 2024 (sundown-to-sundown), but I wanted to tell you about it early because it's going to take some planning to get UNPLUGGED for a day.

This link would be great to share with families because there are tons of "unplug" ideas to encourage parents and children to have FUN together.

There are many things we do in schools that don’t have an impact on children, but I bet if you “unplugged” for one day it would leave a lasting impression. It could also lead to some great learning opportunities. Students could write opinions, do a T-Chart of things to do with a screen and without a screen, graph preferences, make a book about what to do without technology, do a Venn diagram...

Have you read BLACKOUT by John Rocco. It’s a delightful tale about what happens when a family in a big city loses power. I won’t tell you what happens, but I bet you can guess. I was talking to some children recently about the “olden days” before televisions, video games, cell phones, and computers. They were stunned and said, “What did you do?” I smiled and replied, “You know what? We played outside and had lots of fun!”

Several years ago a teacher told me that they asked the families at her school to record the amount of screen time their child had for a week. The next week they asked the parents to turn off all devices and spend the same amount of time interacting with their child by reading, playing games, doing chores around the house, going for walks, etc. Do you think most families could survive this? It certainly would be a meaningful challenge!

Wednesday, February 21, 2024


Here’s an art/engineering project that my students always enjoyed. Erik Erikson believed that children aged 5-12 were in the age of “industriousness” and needed opportunities to feel confident in their ability to achieve and produce. If you watch children as they work on these projects you can almost see their brains firing away as they create and problem-solve.

2 lunch bags
old newspapers
scissors, tape, glue, markers
construction paper scraps and other art media

Decorate one bag with construction paper, markers, paint, and your imagination to look like a building. Open the second bag and stuff with wadded up newspaper. Insert the decorated bag over the stuffed bag to make a rectangular cube.

Tie these sack structures in with a unit on community helpers by asking children to make buildings in their community.

Let children make places from a book they have read and use them to retell the story.

Divide children into small groups and let them collaborate in designing buildings and structures. Can they make a city in the future? Can they make dwellings from other cultures and countries?

Now that's what I call building skills for the 21st Century! Cooperation, collaboration, communication, and creativity all rolled into a fun thing for children to do!

Tuesday, February 20, 2024


I've seen several versions of "See You Later, Alligator." The kids enjoyed it so much that my daughter wrote a similar song called "Todaloo." It can be sung to the tune of "Down by the Bay."

Bye bye dragon fly
Toodaloo tennis shoe
Wave to me bumble bee
Give a hug ladybug
Time to bale blue whale
Catch the bus octopus
Gotta scat alley cat
Take care teddy bear
Hit the road old toad
Time to swish gold fish
Hit the course race horse
Catch a cab hermit crab
You’re a love turtledove
We had fun bubblegum
We had a laugh giraffe
Good luck rubber duck
Take a boat billy goat
Vamoose Mr. Moose
Never fear reindeer
Time to go black crow
Come again, red hen
Learned a lot tater tot
See you later, alligator
After while crocodile.

Both "Todaloo" and "See You Later, Alligator" make great class books.  First, enlarge the words and put one line on each page.  After singing the song several times, let children choose a verse and illustrate it for the book. Punch holes and bind with book rings.

*Let the children all sign their names as “Illustrators."

Good-bye Friends!
See you later, alligator!
After while, crocodile!
In an hour, sunflower!
Maybe two, kangaroo!
Gotta go, buffalo!
Adios, hippos!
Chow, chow, brown cow!
See you soon, baboon!
Adieu, cockatoo!
Better swish, jellyfish.
Chop chop, lollipop.
Gotta run, skeleton!
Bye-bye, butterfly!
Better shake, rattlesnake.
Good-bye, my good friends!

Monday, February 19, 2024


One math standard that many children struggle with is the ability to understand what is one more and one less. Let’s see what happens when we hop, sing, and move this standard.

Paper Clip (Parisa Ghannadan)
Make a number line on a sentence strip. Use a paper clip to slide to different numbers and the children can see what comes before and after.

Number Line Hop
Draw a number line with chalk on the carpet or use masking tape to make a number line on the floor. Choose different children to hop to a number. What is one less? What is one more?
*Let children roll one or two dice and then hop to that number. What is one more? Less?
*Call two children and ask each to stand on a different numeral on the number line. Which one is more? Which one is less?

Ruler Game
Give children a ruler to use as a number line. Have them point to the numbers as they count on the ruler. Can you find 6? What’s 1 more than 6? What is 1 less than 6?

Counting on a Shoestring
Write numerals 0-20 on a cotton shoestring with a permanent marker. Insert a bead. Children move the bead as they count. They can clearly see what is one more and one less.

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.)

More or Less Game
Make a grid similar to the one shown. Two children take turns making sets with unifix cubes in the middle section. Their partner has to make sets with “one more” and “one less.”

Magic Number Countdown

Children stand in a circle. The first child says “one,” and children continue counting around the circle. When you get to ten or a set of ten, that child must sit down. Continue counting until you get to 100 and then start all over again. The last child standing is the winner.

Country Countdown
Here's a video where your students  can count forwards and backwards with me.

Sunday, February 18, 2024


I've got some "old" ideas for you today, but they will be a "new" way to help your kids learn.

Write the numerals 1-100 on 2” foam squares and place them in a lunch sack. Each day choose 2 squares and count forwards from one number to the next. Next, count backwards. Which is greater? Less? Which has 3 tens? Can you show it with money? Which is odd? Even?
Hint! Adapt the numbers in the bag to the age and level of your students. 

Here’s a way to help children “see” math and integrate writing. Fold a sheet of paper into fourths and do the following in each section.
Make: 4
Draw: O O O O
Tell: I have 4 cookies.
Do: 2 + 2 = 4 1 + 3 = 4 (Children use manipulatives to create different ways to make a number and then write the equation.)

(Tune: “Old MacDonald”)
There was a teacher who had some numbers
And ODD was their name-o.
1, 3, 5, 7, 9
1, 3, 5, 7, 9
1, 3, 5, 7, 9
And ODD was their name-o.

There was a teacher who had some numbers
And EVEN was their name-o.
0, 2, 4, 6, 8…

Make a giant hundreds board on a shower curtain liner. Let children toss a beanbag and identify the number. What comes before? After? What’s greater than? Less than?

Make a grid similar to the one shown and write numbers 1-6 at the top. Roll a die and color in a box on the grid for that number. Which number will win? 

*Children can play this game independently, with a friend, or with a small group.

(Tune: "Farmer in the Dell")
1 plus 1 equals 2
1 plus 1 equals 2
Hi - ho - adding we'll go.
1 plus 1 equals 2

Here’s a super idea for classroom management. Put a number on each chair with a sticky note. Put the same numbers in a bag. Children draw a number and then find the seat with that number on it. That is their seat for the day, week, whatever. You can also use the numbers to line the children up.
*Write numbers on seasonal cutouts, such as snowflakes or hearts.

Saturday, February 17, 2024


There's something about moving your fingers and repeating information that will help your students with planning and organization.

Fist List
Have students tuck in their thumb and then put down a finger as they repeat each task they need to complete. Adapt to their assignment for the day. For example:

Put down 1 finger. “Journal writing.”
Put down 2nd finger. “Phonics game.”
Put down 3rd finger. “Independent reading.”
Put down 4th finger. “Ipad skills.”

*This will also nurture the executive function by helping kids plan and organize.

Recall Fist List
Recall at the end of the day by asking students to make a “fist list” of what they learned that day. They can put down a finger for everything they learned or feel good about.

New Skill Fist List
Here’s a formula for learning a new skill.

1st – Hold up one finger and repeat it out loud.

2nd - Hold up the second finger and visualize using the skill.

3rd – Hold up the third finger and repeat it with a partner.

End the Day with a Fist List
I use this tip to end my concerts with children, but I think it would be a special way to send children home at the end of the day.
First:  Open up your hand and tuck in your thumb.
Second:  You are amazing. (Bring down index finger.)
Third:  You are special.  (Bring down middle finger.)
Fourth:  You are wonderful. (Bring down ring finger.)
Fifth:  You are kind.  (Bring down pinky.)

*Adapt the adjectives to your school goals.

Friday, February 16, 2024


Some children need more “thinking time” than others. When students blurt out the answer, it deprives some students of that time. These strategies will also develop self-regulation and encourage your students to think of divergent answers.

Whisper and Release
Have children hold up their hand and whisper their answer in their fist. When most children have responded say, "1, 2, 3, release!" Children open their fist and whisper their answer.

Thumbs Up Thinking
Explain that you are going to ask a question. If they know the answer they can put their thumb up next to their chest.

*If they know more than one answer, they can put up a finger for each additional thing they know.

Pop Up Q & A
To review information, divide children into partners. Ask the question or give a math problem. Students discuss the answer with their partner and then stoop to the ground. When all the groups are squatting down, the teacher says, “One, two, three!” Children pop up and say the answer. If they arrived at different answers, let the class evaluate the correct response.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024


Happy Valentine's Day! February 17th is officially Random Acts of Kindness Day, but these activities will be perfect to spread "love" any day this week! Start the day tomorrow by asking what "random acts of kindness" means. Brainstorm examples and then challenge each of your students to do at least 3 acts of kindness during the week.

Kindness Club
Write "The Kindness Club" on the board or a poster and have students write the names of classmates who do something kind for them.

Give each child "kindness tickets" to distribute to friends who do something nice for them.

*Thanks to Carolyn Kisloski for creating these tickets and poster for you.

Kindness Bracelet
Make bracelets from pipe cleaners. When they do a good deed they can get a bead and add it to their bracelet.

Kindness Book
Make a "Kindness Book" where students can record something positive a classmate has done for them.

Here are some other suggestions from

1. Smile at one extra person.

2. Each lunch (or play) with someone new.

3. Make sure to say "I love you" or give someone special a hug.

4. Send a positive message or help someone.