Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Yes, indeed, Kansas teachers were awesome last week when I visited Garden City. I didn’t see Toto or the Wizard, but I did bring back some great ideas for you!

You Made My Day (Cheryl Degenhardt)
Make a poster for your door that says “You Made My Day.” When children do something special write their name and date.

Balloon Song (Pameal Tuller)
Ask the child to tell you their name, a color, and if they choose loud or soft.
Sing this song to the tune of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” inserting their name, color, and loud/soft.
     Child’s name had a color balloon
     And so he/she blew and blew. (Blow, blow, blow.)
     Until it got all big and fat
     And grew and grew and grew. (Spread hands demonstrating balloon growing.)
     Child’s name tossed it in the air
     And never let it drop
     Until it landed on the ground
     And softly or loudly clap it went POP!

Crocodile – Crocodile (Lindsay Barta)
Add crocodile features (mouth and head) to a green bucket Write sight words, letters, blends, numbers, etc. on cards and place them in the bucket. On one or two cards write “Snap! Snap!"
Say this poem and make the motions as you begin the game:
     Crocodile, crocodile (Open arms wide and clap hands.)
     Down by the lake (Make arms in a circle.)
     I’m going to reach in (Put hand in the bucket.)
     And see what you ate. (Fingers to mouth like eating.)

If children draw the “Snap! Snap!” card everyone snaps and they put their cards back in the crocodile’s mouth and start all over again.

Pretzel Hug (Chelsea)
Cross arms and clasp fingers. Breath as you bring clasped hands down, under, and up towards chest. This helps children center themselves and relax.

Laser Pointer
Purchase a laser pointer with the end cap that can be changed to create a star, heart, mouse, etc. Dim the lights and point at sight words, letters, numerals, shapes, etc.

b d Confusion
As you say “a b c d” make these motions.
“A” left hand on thigh flat.
“B” make a “b” with fingers on left thigh.
“C” right hand on thigh flat.
“D” make lowercase “d” with fingers on right thigh.

Sprinkler Cheer
Arm out and rotate as you go “/sh/ /sh/ /sh/.”
As sprinkler returns to start go “/ch/ /ch/ /ch/.”

Feed the Shark (Heidi Cundiff)
Make a shark out of foam board and tape two back to back.
Cut out a mouth and tape on white foam teeth.
Put a bucket in the back to catch the fish.
Cut out fish from cardboard and write letters, colors, shapes, numbers, words, etc. on them.
Children stand behind a line and try to “feed the shark” by tossing the fish in his mouth. They must say what is on the fish before tossing it.

Room Spray (Megan Ford)
When your room needs a fresh smell, spray and call it “magic dust” or “brain food.”

Silent Hoorays (Megan Ford)
Cheer wildly silently.

Mighty Oh Yeah
Kids clap big and say, “Oh, yeah!”

Tattling/Hurt Feelings
“Brush it off” as you swipe your shoulder.

Fly Swatter Game (Melissa Dahlke)
Buy a giant fly swatter at the dollar store. Cut out fly shapes and write letters, words, names, colors, etc. on them. Children identify the information as they swat the fly.

Couth and Sneeze Song (Tune: “Farmer in the Dell”)
     When you have to cough and sneeze
     Use a Kleenex, if you please.
     Use your elbow or your sleeve,
     Don’t be disgusting.

Emotion Blocks (LaShaina Lee-Flax)
Buy to wooden cube blocks. Paint one green and one red. On one block write emotions on each side. On the other block write an animal on each side. Children take turns rolling the blocks. They act out what they roll. For example: sad monkey or angry elephant

Good-Bye Transition (Haley Jackson)
This idea is from I LOVE YOU RITUALS and could be used for your own children or children with separation anxiety.
     You’ve been gone.
     You’ve been missed.
     Here is an angel
     With a “Hello” kiss!

*Use a stuffed animal, your hand, or an actual kiss.

The Russell Child Development Center sponsored the family concert and teacher workshop. They are a beautiful example of what can happen when a community joins hands and works together for children. Check out this website and facebook page to learn more about what they are doing.



Monday, May 30, 2016


It is right and it is good to take a moment today and discuss Memorial Day and what it means.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day because people decorated the gravesites of those who died during the Civil War. Many cities and towns claim the birthplace of Memorial Day, but I’d like to share the story from Charleston.

During the Civil War Union soldiers who were prisoners were held at the Hampton Park Race Course in Charleston. Over 250 prisoners died and were buried in unmarked graves. The freedmen cleaned up the burial ground and added an arch that said “Martyrs of the Race Course.” On May 1, 1865, some 10,000 black residents of Charleston, along with teachers and white missionaries from the north, gathered to commemorate the war dead. The parade was led by three thousand black school children, followed by women with baskets of flowers and wreaths and men marching in cadence. The children sang “We'll Rally around the Flag,” the “Star-Spangled Banner,” and other gospel songs. Many stayed at the park for picnics and fellowship.
                             Inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael wrote her own poem in 1915:
We cherish too, the Poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led,

It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

Moina Michael was the first to wear a red poppy to honor those who died during war. She sold them to her friends and co-workers to raise money to benefit servicemen. The tradition has spread around the world.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.


And, thanks for taking a moment with me today as we count our blessings and say, “I’M PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!”

Sunday, May 29, 2016


Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

I don't know where you are going this summer, but I know where I will be and I hope you'll join me at one of my summer camps! 

June 21-22, Phoenix, Arizona

July 26-27, Albany, NY

August 2-3, Manchester NH
We'll sing, dance, do crafts, and make new friends. And, I promise you'll be more excited about starting the new school year because of all the new activities you'll learn.


My sister used to have a sign on her refrigerator that said, "If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." I want YOU to be happy because then your students will be happy!  Come to Summer Camp and you'll remember how much FUN teaching can be!

DAY 1: Totally Reading
• Brain Energizers—Sing Along • Review of Research • Focusing on Standards • Creating a Literate Environment • Print Knowledge • Functional Print • Phonological Awareness • Fun Phonics • Stories to Promote Oral Language • Word Games and Fluency • Comprehension Strategies •Vocabulary Builders • Writing Connections • Writing Across the Curriculum

DAY 2: Totally Math and Classroom Management
• Brain Energizers—Sing Along Handshakes
• 21st Century Skills • Math Standards • Counting Songs • Numbers and Sets • Addition and Subtraction • Algebraic Thinking• Geometry, Measurements • Math Every Day • Differentiating Instruction • Questioning Strategies and Mind Mapping • Games That Teach • Center Management • Principles of Classroom Management • “Tricks” and Transition Tips • Home/School Connections *Science Surprises

Saturday, May 28, 2016


Did you know that I LOVE potato chips? My family usually gives me a bag for Christmas, my birthday, and other special events. I try not to eat potato chips too often because I know they are not good for me, but I do love that salty greasy taste!!!  I’ve been brainstorming projects for some summer make and take workshops and I’ve come up with a few things to do with an empty Pringle’s can. So, I guess I’ll just have to eat those chips whether they are good for me or not!!!

Line up chips – Write numerals 1-25 (or however many students you have) on the chips with a permanent marker. Cut a slit in the top of the can. Pass out the chips. As you count from 1-25, children holding that chip come up and place it in the can.
Brain sprinkles – Cover the can with fancy paper. Put a tablespoon of rice in the can and glue on the lid. Explain that it’s “brain sprinkles” and pretend to sprinkle it over the children’s heads when you want them to introduce something new.

Letter cups – Write letters of the alphabet on plastic bathroom cups. Stack them up and place in the can. Children can use these for making their names, sight words, alphabetical order, etc.
Number cups – Write numbers on the cups (1-20 or as high as your students can go). Children can use these for numerical order and other math games.

Eye can – Cover the can with paper and then glue on googly eyes. If a child says, “I can’t” hand them the can as you say, “Eye can!”
Question sticks – Give each child a jumbo craft stick. They write their name on the center of the stick and then color one end green and one end red. Insert the sticks in the can with the green end on top. Ask a question, twirl the can around, and choose a stick. That child gets to answer the question (or they can phone a friend). After they’ve had a turn put the stick back in the can with the red end on top. When all the sticks are red, turn them over and start again.
Lucky sticks – Children write their names on a stick and decorate it. Place the sticks in the can. When you have a special job to be done, choose a stick and that “lucky” child gets to be yr helper. Put their stick in an envelope in your drawer after they’ve had a turn. When everyone has had a turn place the sticks in the can and begin again.

Bank – Let children decorate cans with art media. Cut a slit in the top and use as a bank.
*Let them save brain tickets or other rewards in the can.

Roll ‘em – Put one or two dice in the can. The children shake the can and dump out the dice.
*If you use one die they can color in a grid every time they roll that number.

*If you use two or three dice they can write the equation and answer.

Bounce and Catch - Give children a Pringle's can and a tennis ball.  Can they bounce it and catch it in the can?  Can they play bounce and catch with a friend?

Friday, May 27, 2016


Goodness Gracious!!!  Some of these games are older than me!!  Think of these activities as a "history lesson"!

Mother, May I?
Materials: none
Children line up with their backs to a wall. One person is “mother” and stands about 30 feet in front of the others. One at a time “mother” names a child and tells them a different motion they must perform. For example, baby steps, scissor steps, twirls, giant steps, or frog leaps. The child must remember to ask, “Mother, may I?” before performing the movement or he or she is sent back to the starting line. The first one to reach “mother” becomes the next “mother.”

Sneaky Snake
Materials: none
Have the children hold hands and stand in a long line. Hold the child’s hand at the front of the line and move them in zigzags, spirals, and all around as the others follow behind.
*See if the “head” of the snake can catch the “tail.”

Red Light
Materials: none
Two lines are draw 30 feet apart. The children stand behind one line while “it” stands on the opposite line. “It” turns his or her back to the other players and calls out, “One, two, three, red light!” On this signal, “it” turns and faces the other players. If anyone is caught moving, the player is sent back to the starting line. The first one to tag “it” becomes the new leader.

Wolf and Chickens

Materials: none

Two lines are draw approximately 40 feet apart. The children are the “chickens” and line up behind one of the lines. One child is the wolf and stands between the two lines. The wolf pretends to be a chicken and says, “Cluck, cluck” and flaps his or her arms. But when the wolf shouts, “Wolf,” all the chickens must run to the other line. If the wolf tags them, they must become wolves, too, and help the wolf catch the other chickens. The game continues until all the chickens are caught. The last one caught becomes the wolf for the next game.

*A similar game called “sharks and minnows” can be played. Have the minnows get behind a line as the shark tries to catch them when “shark” is called.


Materials: none

Children form a circle and one child is chose to be “it. “It” walks around the outside of the circle saying “duck” as he or she touches each player on the head. Players squat down as they are tapped. If “it” touches a child and says “goose,” that child must chase “it” around the circle before “it” can get back to “goose’s” place. If “it” is caught, he or she must sit in the center of the circle. “Goose” then becomes “it” and the game continues.

*Adapt this game to different holidays. For example you could do “bat-bat-witch” in October.

Materials: none
Divide the children into groups of four or five. Each group thinks of a statue they can make with their bodies. (Let them think of a title for their statue, too.) Groups perform their statue for their classmates, while classmates try to guess what their title or theme might be.

*Increase the size of the groups to see how many people they can incorporate into their statue.

Follow the Leader
Materials: none
One person is chosen to be the leader. The rest of the class marches behind the leader and does just what the leader does. The leader can walk, hop, run, skip, wave their arms, go under something, slide down the slide, and so forth. After several minutes another child is chosen to be the leader.
What were your favorite games when you were a child? Wouldn’t it be fun to teach your students or your own children a special game you remember from your childhood!

Thursday, May 26, 2016


If I were in charge of the world summer vacation would begin Memorial Day weekend and school wouldn't start again until after Labor Day. I guess I'm not in charge of the world! Some of you have "tested" and are out the door...some of you still have weeks to go. In or out, here are some variations of traditional games children always enjoy playing.
Hug Tag
Materials: none
Directions:  Designate a playing area. One child is “it.” “It” chases other children who must “freeze” when they are tagged. Players hug those who are “frozen” to “unfreeze” them.
     *Stoop Tag – Children stoop down on the ground when they are tagged.
     *Cartoon Tag – Children must name a cartoon show when they are tagged.

     *Shadow Tag – children must freeze when “it” steps on their shadow.
     *Sticky Tag – Children must hold the part of their body that is tagged.

Relays are a little difficult at first for children under six. But, like anything else, if you practice and play several times they will catch on. I particularly like relays because they require self-regulation and are a team effort.
Materials: none

Directions:  Divide the children into teams with five or six players on each. Have the players line up single file behind a line and run one at a time to a designated point and back. The first player tags the second player, who then runs the distance. The first team to have all players run is the winner.
*Ball Relays– Have the children pass a ball over their heads and under their legs. The last person runs to the front of the line and continues passing over and under. When the first person is in his or her original position, their team wins the game. Relays where children must dribble a ball, kick a ball, or throw a ball into a target can also be played.

*Animal Relays – Let the children walk like crabs (on backs with hands and feet), bears (on all fours), birds (flapping arms), monkeys (scratching sides), or elephants (swinging arms like a trunk.)

*Quick Change – Prepare bags with a shirt, pants, and hat for each team. The first player puts the clothes on, runs to a designated point, takes the clothes off, then runs and gives the clothes to the second person.

*Pig Relays - Move the ball with your nose.

*Movements- Have children hop, jump, skip, gallop, walk backwards, or do other movements.

*Toesie Relay – Have the children take their shoes off, pick up a peanut with their toes, carry it to a basket, and drop it in.

*Potato Relay – Ask the children to carry a potato in a large spoon without dropping it.

*Balloon Relay- Have children run with a balloon to a chair, then sit on the balloon and pop it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


Here are a few simple games to build summer memories, friendships, and fitness. Games are also a good way to develop the executive function. There's a beginning and an end, and children have to follow the rules and use self-regulation.

*Change these games for the level and interest of your children.
*Keep the rules few and simple.
*Play on soft surfaces and keep it SAFE!
*Emphasize cooperation and the joy of playing, rather than competition and scores.
*Encourage children to problem solve and work out their own differences.

Circle Soccer
My students loved this game. It was quick and it didn't require a lot of physical skills.
Materials: playground ball
Directions: Stand in a circle and hold hands. Place the ball inside the circle. Children try to kick the ball and keep it inside the circle. If the ball goes out of the circle between two people, then both people are out of the game. If a player kicks the ball too high and it goes over someone’s head, then the player who kicked the ball is out of the game. The game continues until there are just one or two players left.

Jump the Creek
This is another game my students always wanted to play.

Materials: 2 jump ropes (or you can make lines in the sand)

Directions: Children get in a line behind each other. Spread the ropes about one foot apart to make the "creek." One at a time children jump over the "creek" and then get at the back of the line. After each child has had a turn, move the ropes farther apart to make the "creek" wider. Children continue jumping over the "creek" as it gets wider and wider. If they don't clear the rope or touch the rope when they jump they are out of the game and become "cheerleaders." The game continues until one person is left.
*Sometimes we pretended there were alligators or crocodiles the creek!

Build the Castle
This game is similar to Jump the Creek, but it's for high jump rather than broad jump.
Materials: long jump rope

Directions:  Choose two people to hold the rope. The other players form a straight line and take turns jumping over the rope. The rope begins on the ground, but after everyone has had a turn, it is raised a few inches. If a child’s foot touches the rope, he or she is out of the game. Continue raising the rope until there is just one child left who can jump the height.

*A similar game called “school” can be played. When the rope is on the ground it is called “kindergarten.” Each time the rope is raised, it is called “first grade,” “second grade,” and so on.

What’s That Jive?
This game is like Red Rover, but a lot safer.

Materials: none

Directions:  Divide the children into two teams and have them stand in a line facing each other 30 to 40 feet apart. One team calls for a player from the other team with this chant:
        (Child's name), (child’s name)
        What’s that jive?
        Come on over
        And give me five.

The team calling the chant holds their hands out in front of them with their palms up. The child called proceeds down their line giving each player “five” by slapping their palms. If the child who is “it” slaps the palms and then slaps under their palms, that child chases “it” back to his or her original team. If “it” is caught, he or she must return to the opposing team, but if not, the chaser must joint “it’s” team. The game continues with teams taking turns calling players from the opposite side.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


While surfing the internet I happened upon this UK website:
Our site strives to help you as the parent be informed and motivated to get your kids into nature and go wild with fun! Also to teach them to interact and get along with other kids from all ages, not just their own. All for the betterment of their future success, and yours as a parent of course!
I was hooked because I’m so passionate about giving children time to PLAY. PLAY, PLAY, PLAY! Isn’t that what children are suppose to do in childhood?

Several years ago I read Richard Louv’s book LAST CHILD IN THE WOODS: SAVING OUR CHILDREN FROM NATURE-DEFICIT DISORDER. It reminded me that exposure to nature is essential for healthy physical and emotional development in children AND adults. (This book first came out in 2005, but you can imagine the decrease in outdoor time and increase in screen time over the past 11 years!!!!)

Summer is the perfect time to get outdoors and let children explore in a less controlled environment. Educators, as well as many parents, are concerned about all the time their children spend in front of a screen. But, you can’t always give children a choice. If you say, “Do you want to go outside and go for a walk or play video games on your computer?” You know what the answer will be!

We need to engage children in outdoor activities and create opportunities where they will choose to play and “be wild”! These are some suggestions I adapted from the website that you might want to share with your parents:

Climb a tree

Roll down a really big hill

Build a tent

Hunt for stones

Watch the sun wake up

Go on a nature walk at night

Plant it, grow it, eat it

Discover what’s in a pond

Go to a park

Play in the sand

Run around in the rain

Fly a kite

Hunt for bugs

Go fishing

Cook on a campfire

Look for objects in the clouds

Make a mud pie

Swing on a rope swing
Just think how giving children 30 minutes of OUTDOOR WILD TIME every day this summer could impact their lives!!!

Monday, May 23, 2016


It’s almost summertime and that means the planes will be full of some happy children, some screaming children, some bored children, and some entertained children!  It befuddles me how some parents don't have a clue when it comes to interacting with their children.  This is a blog I wrote several years ago, but you might want to share it with your families.  What a missed opportunity to just hand an electronic device to a child and miss a wonderful conversation and memory!

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when you travel with children.  And if you’ll read these tips, I bet your fellow passengers will thank you for being on top of the game!  Take advantage of the one-on-one time with your child by giving them 100% of your attention.  After all, isn’t that what children want most from adults?

Planning Ahead
Several days before the trip start talking about your adventure and give details about what is going to happen.  Have children close their eyes as you describe the trip – checking in at the airport -  going through security -  waiting for your flight to be called – getting on the plane and fastening your seatbelt – taking off – looking out the window – landing – how much fun you’ll have on your vacation, etc.  Explain that there are many other people who will be sharing a small space on the plane and that everyone needs to be respectful and use their best manners and quiet voices.  The pilots and flight attendants are there to keep everybody safe, so you will have to listen carefully to them.
Let your children pack a bag full of special objects that they want to carry on the plane.  (You’ll have to give some guidelines for this so they don’t try and bring their entire collection of stuffed animals.)  A few books, a tablet and markers, a card game, a bedtime buddy or blanket, and some healthy snacks should do the trick.  You might also suggest a change of clothes, tissues, and bandaids in case of emergencies.
Note!  I did not suggest a computer or IPad.  Parents, you can pack this in your bag and save it for emergencies.  Too often children play with these while waiting for their flights to take off and then they are bored by the time they get up in the air.
After going through security, walk around and look out the windows at the other planes.  Look at all the passengers and guess where they might be going.  Talk about special things that your child hopes to do on the trip.   If the flight is delayed you can play “I Spy,” “Tic Tac Toe,” “Hangman” or another quiet game.  Oh, and don’t forget a last minute stop in the restroom!

Taking Off
When boarding a plane, you’ll find most pilots enthusiastic about meeting children and letting them take a “peek” inside the cockpit.  Can your child find her own seat?  Once seated, encourage your child to explore her space.  (It’s fine to open and shut the window shade a few times, look in the seat pocket, talk about the airsick bag, etc.)   Playing with the flight attendant call button is NOT ALLOWED!  When the boarding door has closed, then everyone must buckle up!
Up in the Air
Once you are in the air, it’s time to open the backpack and read some books, play a game, draw some pictures, or eat a snack.  Too often children have gone through their bag of tricks before they get in the air.   If a beverage is served, show your child how to put down their tray and discuss their selection.  Keep on talking and engaging your child.

O.K.  Now, it’s time to get out the iPad or computer and watch a movie.  Wait until the last possible moment to do this.  This is like the 8th inning stretch on the plane.  (I might also recommend a bag of M & M’s – for emergencies only!)  Before you know it you will hear those magic words, “Please make sure your seatbelt are fastened.  We will be landing shortly.”  

Remember, YOU are the parent and you are directing this event.  With a happy, positive, attitude you’ll have a great flight and the other passengers will as well!  How many opportunities do you have to give your child 100% of your attention?  That may be the best part of your trip! 

Wishing you happy travels!

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Lucky Penny Day is May 23, but it might add a little "cents" to any day this week.

Penny Hunt
Hide pennies around the classroom for the children to find. (I would hide as many pennies as there are students in the classroom.)  Everyone can find ONE penny. When they find a penny they sit down or help a friend find a penny.
*How old is their penny? Is it older or younger than they are?

Penny Sort
Have the children spread out their pennies. Are they all the same? How are they different? Can they sort the pennies?  Can they sort them another way?

Put Your Face on a Penny
Cut out paper circles (6" works well) and pass them out to your students. What would their face look like if it were on a penny?

Penny Rubbings
Place pennies under a sheet of paper and rub with the side of a crayon. 

Magic Pennies
You'll need a cup and 5 pennies for this game.  Show the children the five pennies.  Have them hide their eyes as you hide a few of the pennies under the cup.  When they open their eyes challenge them to hold up fingers to represent the number of pennies they think are under the cup.  Lift the cup to confirm the correct amount.
*Vary the number of pennies and let the children take turns hiding them under the cup.
Penny Facts (usmint.gov)
President Lincoln has been on the penny since 1909. “In God We Trust,” “Liberty,” and the year are on all the coins.
From 1909 to 1958, the Lincoln "wheat" penny was issued.
From 1959 to 2008 the image of the Lincoln Memorial was printed on the coin.
In 2009, four different pennies were issued to represent the four major aspects of Lincoln’s life:
Birth and Early Childhood in Kentucky (1809-1816)

Formative Years in Indiana (1816-1830)

Professional Life in Illinois (1830-1861)

Presidency in Washington, D.C. (1861-1865)

Here's a link so you can learn more:

Saturday, May 21, 2016


O.K., it’s almost the end of the school year and you’re just trying to hang in there. I’ve got two simple holidays you can celebrate this week to keep you going and engage your students.

May 22 is “Buy a Musical Instrument Day,” but I’ve changed it to “Make a Musical Instrument Day.”

Tin Pan Band
Get out the junk box and invite children to create a musical instrument.

Family Project

For homework, ask parents to help their children make a musical instrument from something around the house. Can they find a box or cardboard roller and recycle it?

Classroom Objects
Challenge children to look around the classroom and find something they can use to make music. 

*Two paper plates, cups, craft sticks, pencils, or blocks can be used to tap out a beat or repeat a pattern.

Body Parts
Brainstorm body parts can they “play” to make music. Snap fingers, clap hands, thump fists, stomp feet, and so forth.

Loud and Soft
What child hasn't wanted to be a conductor?  Let them take turns leading their classmates as they play instruments.  Demonstrate when the conductor's arms are open they should play loud, but when the conductor puts her hands close together they should play softly.

Come back tomorrow to learn about "Lucky Penny Day."