Thursday, February 28, 2013


For years I resisted making a video for children.  The whole point of my songs is for the teacher to interact with the children, look them in the eyes, and enjoy a special time together.  That is still critical to me.  However, I have received so much positive feedback about my “Better Bodies and Brains” DVD that it might be time to make another one.  When I first watched that video I was embarrassed.   I did not like looking at myself, and I thought it was corny.  The bottom line is the kids LIKE it.  So there!  (They think I’m flying like an angel because of the blue background.  Some of them wonder why I wear black all the time.  I get some really cute comments.)  But, let me tell you the real reason this DVD works.  There are times in the day when you would like to put your class on “pause.”  You’ve got to put away reading materials and get ready for math.  You need to send something to the office.  You receive an emergency phone call.  That’s when I’ll help you out.  Put me on your interactive white board and I will sing, dance, entertain your class – and perhaps help them learn something!

So, I need your help!  I’m going to record a new DVD in a few months and I'd like your suggestions for songs that I should include.  Of course, I’ll do the “Tooty Ta” and “The Cool Bear Hunt” on this recording.  But what else would you like?  Let me know your suggestions in the next two weeks and I’ll aim to please.  You might even use this as an opportunity for your students to write an “opinion” about their favorite song.  You can email your suggestions to  Thanks for your help!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


One of the enduring rituals in early childhood has been sharing time.  Most children love to be the center of attention and talk in front of their friends.  However, you can reinforce important speaking and listening standards with some of these ideas.

Show and Share  - Instead of “bring and brag,” focus show and tell on a specific theme you are studying, such as a letter, science concept, shape, etc.

*Provide a child-size podium (old music stand) for children to stand behind when they speak.

*Have children close their eyes as friends take turns sharing.  Can everyone remember one thing at the end of sharing time?

*Ask children to come up with three clues about what they have brought from home.  (Parents could write these for young students.)  After giving the clues, friends try and guess what it is.

*Let the class ask 20 questions about show and tell items.  Tally their answers on the board.

*The person sharing can make three statements about what they have brought.  The class then gets to ask them three questions about it.

*Try “show what you know” where children can demonstrate what they have learned about a theme.  They could do an art project, make up a song, do a skit, make a video, etc.

Hint!  Designate a special shelf or table in your classroom where students can place their show and tell objects for friends to look at later in the day.

Assign students different days of the week for sharing time.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Have you ever heard of your “golden birthday”?  That was a new one for me.   Your “golden birthday” only occurs once in your lifetime when you are as old as the day on which you were born.  For example, if your birthday is March 6th, the year you turn six years old is your golden birthday.  If you turn 27 on February 27th, that’s your golden birthday.  (I guess I missed mine long ago!)
Our grandson had a birthday recently and our daughter came up with a unique solution to all the toys.  There is a site ( that provides a balance between something for the birthday child and helping a charity of their choice.  K.J. was able to donate money to a camp for injured animals and get the video game of his “dreams.”  (What can I say?)  I’m sure the parents of the children who were invited were thrilled to donate online instead of buying a gift, wrapping it, yada yada.

I did a little exploring on the internet and it’s amazing how many alternatives there are to traditional birthday gifts.   Everything from a book exchange (every child brings a book and goes home with a book) to art supplies (which get donated to a shelter) to homemade cards…

If you’ve never seen my “birthday video” you can check it out to see how we celebrated in my classroom.

Monday, February 25, 2013


Letter Bags and Boxes
Standards:   RF 1d, L 1a
Materials:    sacks from restaurants or cardboard food boxes, foam letters  
                   or magnetic letters, paper, pencils
Directions:   Place letters in sacks and boxes.  Children take out the letters 
                    and match them up with those on the bag or box.  Can they    
                    write the letters that they know?
More!           Older students could make a list of words or parts of speech 
                    they find on the bags and boxes.

Singular and Plural
Standard:    L 1c
Materials:    Unifix cubes, sticky dots, marker
Directions:   Put sticky dots on the Unifix cubes.   Write letters on the dots.
                   Make simple CVC words with the letters.  Children read the  
                   word and then add an “s” to make the plural form.  Can they say
                   or write a sentence using the singular and plural form?

Phoneme Beads
Standard:    RF 2b, L 2d
Materials:    pipe cleaner, beads, paper, pencil
Directions:   String 5 beads on a pipe cleaner, knotting the ends so the beads  
                   don’t fall off.  Cut out pictures of objects that are CVC words   
                   and number them. For example:   1. dog, 2. rat, 3. pig, 4. bus, 5. 
                   net, etc.  Children slide a bead for each phoneme they hear in
                   the word.  Next, they draw a blank line for each sound they
                   hear.  Finally, they write the letter for each sound on a line and  
                   read the word.
More!          Use more challenging pictures and words for older students.

Show Me the Money
Standards:   Counting and Classifying
Materials:    coin purse, real or pretend coins
Directions:   Have children sort the coins that are alike.  Which one has the greatest amount?  Smallest amount?
More!          Take a file folder and divide it into 8 sections.  Cut a toy
or other object out of a magazine and write a price by
each one.  (Vary the amount to the counting ability.) Children count out the appropriate number of coins for each object. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Dictionary Search
Standard:    LS 4
Materials:    classroom dictionary or pictionary, list of words, pencils
Directions:   Prepare a list of words (or pictures) that children can find
                   in the dictionary.  Children look through the dictionary and   
                   write down the page number on which that word can be found.
More!          Use a dictionary or a thesaurus to have children find synonyms,
                   antonyms, and other information.

Alphabet Art
Standard:    RF 1d
Materials:    crayons, paper, marker
Directions:   Prepare for this project by drawing a large letter in the middle 
                   of each sheet of paper with a marker.   Children choose a letter
                   and turn the paper all around.  What object, animal, or person
                   does it look like?   Children use crayons to “camouflage” the
                   letter to make it look like something else.
More!          Challenge children to create an object out of the letter that begins with that sound.

Dealer’s Choice
Standard:    Counting, Compare Numbers
Materials:    deck of playing cards (remove the face cards)
Directions:   Have the children sort the cards by suit.
                  Can they put the cards in order from 1-10?
More!          Write “high,” “low,” and “equal” on a piece of paper as shown. 
Children turn over two cards at a time.  Children place the cards in the appropriate pile.  (This would be a fun game to play
with a friend.)

Book Necklace
Standard:    SL 5, L 5c
Materials:    paper, stapler, scissors, hole punch, string or yarn, pencils
Directions:   Cut a sheet of paper in half.  Fold into eighths and cut on the 
                    creased lines.  Staple to make a small book.  Hole punch in the
                    corner and tie on a piece of string.  Children walk around the 
                    classroom and write words they can read.
More!           Use this for an autograph book for friends to write their 
                    Make a book of nouns, color words, shapes, adjectives, etc.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


You can buy clipboards or make your own from corrugated cardboard and butterfly clips.  Here are a few quick and easy centers you can do with clipboards.
Word Search
Standard:    RF 3c
Materials:    list of words found in the classroom, clipboard, pencil
Directions:   Children walk around the room searching for the words on the 
                    list.  They can cross through the words as they find them.
Hint!           A pair of empty glass frames makes this more fun.
More!          Write a seasonal word vertically down the left side of a sheet 
                   of paper.  Can children find a word in the room for each letter?

Remember Doodles
Standard:    RL 10
Materials:    listening center, story tape, clipboard, pencil
Directions:   Children use the clipboard for “remember doodles.”  Encourage 
                   them to draw or write all the things they remember as they  
                   listen to the story.

Writing to a “T”
Standard:    L 5a, W 2
Materials:    paper, crayons, pencils, clipboard
Directions:   Demonstrate how to make a “T” down the middle of the page
                   with a crayon.  Have children write words or draw pictures
                   for things they “like” or “dislike”; things found “inside” or
“outside”;  “big” and “little”; “real” and “pretend” etc.
More!          Relate to science or social studies by having children write
                  “wants” and “needs” or “plants” and “animals.”

Four Square Writing
Standard:    L 2d, RF 2b
Materials:    paper, pencils, clipboard, word wall or dictionary
Directions:   Have children draw a line down the middle of their paper
                   horizontally and vertically to make four sections.  Number
                   the sections “1,” “2,” “3,” “4.”  Ask children to write
                   one letter words in the section numbered “l.”  Write
                   2 letter words in the second section, etc.
More!          Write one syllable words, two syllable words, etc.

Out the Window
Standard:    W 2
Materials:    clipboard, paper, pencils, crayons or markers
Directions:   Children look out the window and describe what they see.
                   I see…
                   I hear…
                   I smell…
                   I feel…
                  After writing, they can illustrate their observations.

Count the Room
Standard:    Counting
Materials:    list of common classroom objects (chairs, boys, girls, 
                   teachers, computers, puppets, noses, shoes – you can make this
                   funny and challenging!)
Directions:   Children walk around the room, count the objects, and write
                   their response on the line.

Shape Hunt
Standard:    Geometry
Materials:    list of two and three dimensional shapes
Directions:   Children walk around the room and hunt for the shapes on their 
                   list.  They can draw or write a description of the shape when  
                   they find it.

Friday, February 22, 2013


It’s Play Dough Day!

Play Dough
Standards:   L 1a (letters), L 2d (words), geometry
Materials:    clear sheet protectors, play dough, paper, markers
Directions:   Purchase play dough or make your own using the recipe below.  
                    Draw letters, words, lines, curves, shapes, etc. on the paper and 
                    insert in the sheet protector.  Children take the play dough and  
                    roll to make snakes.  Next, they use the play dough to trace  
                    over the lines on top of sheet protector.

Phonics        RF 3a
                  After tracing letters, have children make objects that begin
                  with that sound.

Counting and Cardinality
                  After tracing numerals, children make the appropriate set with 
                  play dough.
                  Have children make three-dimensional shapes with play dough.

Recipe for homemade play dough:                                                    
1 cup salt                  2 cups water                                                 
2 cups flour               2 Tb. cream of tartar                                    
2 Tb. vegetable oil     food coloring
Mix all ingredients together until smooth.  Cook over medium heat stirring   
constantly until a ball forms and sticks to the spoon.   Cool, knead, and store in a zip bag.  
Hint!  Substitute massage oil for vegetable oil to make “aroma therapy” dough.
Use unsweetened Kool-aid for color and fragrance.
Omit food coloring and knead dough in cocoa to make “chocolate dough.”

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Pick and Type
Standard:    W 6, L 2d
Materials:    plastic pail or basket, index cards with letters or words, 
Directions:   Children “pick” a letter or word from the pail and type it.              
More!          Use a minute timer so children can see how many words they
                  can type in five minutes.
Author Study
Standard:    RL 6, RL 9
Materials:    several books by the same author, bag, scavenger hunt list
Directions:   Choose several books by one of the children’s favorite authors.  
                    Put them in a bag along with a list similar to the one below:
1.     The author of these books is__________.
2.    My favorite book is__________.
3.    The funniest picture is__________.
4.    The book about a bully is_________.
5.    The book about a party is_________.
6.    I wish the author would write another book about____.

Shape Art
Standard:    Geometry – compose shapes
Materials:    geometric shapes cut out of scrap construction paper, glue, markers
Directions:   You could prepare the shapes ahead of time or let children trace around patterns and cut them out.  Children arrange the shapes on a sheet of paper to make new designs and objects.  Can they identify the shapes they used?  Encourage them to give a title to their artwork.    

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Invisible Writing
Standard:    L 1a (letters), L 2d (words)
Materials:    small paper cups, Q-tips, paper towels, word cards
Directions:   Children fill a cup ¼ full with water.  Next, they dip
                  the Q-tip in water and use it to write letters or words on the
                  paper towel.  As the water evaporates, they’ll have “invisible”
More!          Children can also do invisible writing on the chalkboard with a
sponge dipped in water.

Picture Talks
Standard:    RL 7,  L 2d
Materials:    magazines, paper, pencil, scissors, glue
Directions:   Have children select a picture from a magazine and glue it
                  to a sheet of paper.  Ask them to write words (or sentences)
                  for five things they see in the picture.
More!          Ask children to write what they think the people in the picture
                  are saying.  What happened before?  What will happen next?
Puzzle Math
Standard:    Operations
Materials:    old cardboard puzzles, marker
Directions:   Dump out the puzzle pieces.  On the frame write numerals 0-10
                   (or higher).  On the appropriate piece write a fact that will 
                   equal the number on the frame.  As children solve the problems 
                   they will be completing the puzzle.
More!          Use puzzles to match upper and lowercase letters, antonyms,

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Touch and Tell
Standard:    W 2
Materials:    socks, paper, pencils, small unusual items (Scruffy, dry dog 
                   food, hair bow, baby toy, bubble wrap, seasonal objects, etc.)
Directions:   Place small objects in the socks.  Children choose a sock, feel it, 
                   and then write a description of what they think is in the sock.
Hint!            Use one sock for younger children.  Number socks for older 
                    students so they can write down what they think is in each sock.

I “Tin” Make Words
Standard:    RF 2c, L 2d
Materials:    magnetic letters, mint tin or cookie tin, paper, pencils
Directions:   Place magnetic letters that can be used to make a word family
                   in the tin.  For example: o, p, t, m, h, c, b.  Add a list of words 
                   that can be made from the letters in the tin.  (hop, mop, top, 
                   cop, pop, bop)   Children reproduce the words on the lid of
                   the tin and read them.  You could also ask them to write the
More!          Put several vowels and consonants in the tin and challenge the 
                   children to make all the words they can with the letters.
Little to Large
Standard:    Geometry – compose shapes
Materials:    crayons, paper
Directions:   Make a very small shape (triangle, square, trapezoid, half-circle, etc.) in the center of the paper.  Children take a different color of crayon and go around it, making it a little larger.  Continue using different colors of crayons and making the object a little larger until it completely fills the page.
                   Hint!  You could prepare these ahead or let the children create their own small shapes in the middle of the paper.

Monday, February 18, 2013


Book Browsing
Standard:    RL 5
Materials:    5-10 book jackets or library books on different topics, paper,
pencil, file folder
Directions:   Put letters on the books A, B, C, D, etc. using sticky notes.                         Write questions about the books on the file folder.  For
                           1.  “If you wanted to read a book about a dog, which one
                           would you choose?”
                           2.  “Which book do you think would have a story about a
3.  “Which book would help you learn more about space?”
                           4.  “Where could you find a poem?”
                  Children number their papers and then write the letter for
                  the book that would answer each question.
Letter Necklace
Standard:    RF 1d
Materials:    construction paper, pencils, letter stencils, scissors, hole punch,
                  yarn cut in 22” pieces
Directions:   Children place the letters on the construction paper and trace
                  around them.  Punch a hole in each letter and string it on
                  the yarn.  Tie the ends and wear like a necklace.
More!          Children can make necklaces using the letters in their name, their initials, vocabulary words, etc.

Math Bags
Standard:    Operations and Algebraic Thinking
Materials:    zip bags, permanent marker, small flat objects, pencils, paper
Directions:   Draw a line down the middle of a bag with a permanent marker.  
                   Insert objects in the bag.  Children slide the items from one side to 
                   the other to make different combinations.   Ask them to write down 
                   the equations.
More!          Vary the number of bags and amount to make this increasingly 

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Do you need a little “BAM” in your classroom right now?  Every day this coming week on my blog you’ll find simple (and inexpensive) learning centers that you can create.   My goal was to come up with centers that would engage children and that teachers could make in less than 15 minutes.  

One of the best things about learning centers is that you can integrate Core Standards with 21st Century Skills.  As children practice cognitive skills they will also be collaborating, communicating, problem-solving - and developing the executive function (task initiation, self-regulation, delayed gratification)!  Win!  Win! Win!

*Use these centers for independent, small group, or take home activities.
These could also be available for students who finish their work early.

*Store centers in zip bags, manila envelopes, pencil boxes, plastic tubs, baskets, etc.
Hint!  Color code with stickers to indicate content area and standard.

*”Invite” parents to be game makers and collect the materials and put the centers together for you.

*Share centers and rotate them with other teachers.  If there are 4 teachers on your grade level and you each made five, then you could rotate them a week in each class.  You’ve got centers for a month!

*Number centers 1-5 and ask children to do one each day.  You could also put a checklist with each center so children could cross through their name when they complete an activity.

*Adapt these games to specific skills and the needs of your students.  For example, with “In the News” pre-k children could highlight letters.  Kindergarten children could highlight word wall words.  First graders could find nouns or verbs.  Second graders could find a word for each letter of the alphabet and write them in alphabetical order.
In the News
Standard:    RF 3c, RF 1d
Materials:    newspaper, highlighter, paper, pencils
Directions:   Each child takes a section of the newspaper and highlights ten
                  words (or letters) they can read.  Next, ask them to write
                  the words (or letters)  on a sheet of paper.

Secret Code
Standard:    Counting, Operations
Materials:    old cell phone, paper, pencil, envelopes, index cards
Directions:   Write “secret codes” (words) on index cards and place them
                  in the envelopes.  Children choose an envelope and find the
                  numbers on the key pad that match the letters. 
                  Children write down the numbers and then add them up.
                  Hint!  Write the answer under the lid of the envelope.
                  *Use a single letter for pre-K, a two letter word for K, a three
                  or four letter word for first, and so forth.
Magazine Puppets
Standard:    SL 4, W 3
Materials:    magazines (sports), newspapers, catalogs, scissors, tape, straws
Directions:   Let children cut sports figures and other famous people out of
newspapers or magazines.  Tape to a straw to make a puppet.  What
would your puppet say if it could talk?  What questions
would you like to ask your puppet?
More!          Have students write a story about their puppets.