Saturday, June 24, 2017


When my children came to reading group they would beg, “Can we play a game? Can we play a game?” I always told them if they worked hard that we might have time to play a game at the end. What they didn’t realize was that the games I made probably taught them as much as my reading lesson!

Stinky Cheese
Why? sight words, fluency phrases, letters, math facts, shapes, etc.
What? lunch bag, yellow construction paper, marker
How? Cut cheese slices out of poster board or fun foam using the pattern on the following page. Write letters, words, numbers, etc. on most of the cheese slices. On two slices write “Stinky Cheese!” Place the cheese slices in a lunch sack. Children pass around the sack drawing out one slice at a time. If they can identify the information on the slice they
get to keep it. If they get “Stinky Cheese!” everyone holds their noses and says, “Stinky Cheese!” That person must then put all her slices back in the bag.
*How about a game of “stinky feet” or “stinky socks”?

*An empty cheese cracker box makes a more durable container for the game.


Why? letters, words, sentences, math facts, etc.
What? jumbo craft sticks, permanent marker, plastic cup
How? Color the end of five sticks purple, five red, five blue, five green, five orange, and five yellow. On the other part of the stick write skills you are working on. Place the sticks in the cup with the colored end on the bottom. Choose a random color. Pass the cup around. Children choose a stick and identify the information. If the choose a stick with the designated color they yell, “Fiddlesticks!” and they have to place their other sticks back in the cup.

My Messy House
Why? sight words, letters, numerals, shapes, etc.
What? different colors of construction paper, clothes pins, piece of string
How? Cut clothes out of construction paper and write skills on them. Tie a string (clothesline) between two chairs. Spread the clothes on the floor as you say, “My house is so messy. Who can help me clean it up?” Children take turns choosing an item, reading it, and then hanging it on the clothesline.

Go Fishing
Why? letters, sight words, math facts, etc.
What? stick, string, magnet, brad fastener
How? Cut out fish using the pattern on the following page. Write skills on the fish and attach a brad fastener for eyes. Tie one end of a piece of string to the stick and attach the magnet to the other end of the string. Spread the fish out on the floor. Children try to catch a fish by dangling the magnet over the eye. They can keep the fish if they can identify the information on it.


Friday, June 23, 2017


Got a minute or two, try one of these quick games.

Johnny Jump Up

You will need a photo album and index cards to make this game. Write words on the index cards and insert them in the plastic sleeves. On several cards draw a stick figure jumping and write, “Johnny jump up!” Randomly insert the Johnny cards in the album. As you shuffle through the book children read the words. When Johnny appears they all jump up and shout, “Johnny jump up!”
*Adapt this game to popular cartoon figures or seasonal characters.

Where’s Kitty?
Place flash cards in a pocket chart. Take a small picture of a cat and explain you will hide kitty behind one of the cards. Have children close their eyes as you hide kitty. “Who knows where kitty is?” Children take turns calling out a word and then looking behind it for kitty. The first child to find kitty gets to hide it for the next round.
*Adapt kitty for holidays or seasons. It could be a skeleton, turkey, cupid, etc.

Catch and Tell
You will need a beanbag, sponge ball, or tiny stuffed animal to play this game. The teacher says a letter and then tosses the ball to a child. That child must name something that begins with that sound before tossing the ball back to the teacher.
*This game can be adapted for rhyming words, colors, math, social studies, and other skills. It’s perfect for waiting in the hall or during transitions.

Each child takes a sheet of scrap paper and writes a word wall word, spelling word, math fact, etc. on it. Children wad up their sheet of paper to make it a “snowball.” Divide the class into two teams and have them stand about 20 feet from each other. When the teacher says, “Let it snow!” children begin throwing their snowballs at the opposite side. Children pick up a snowball and identify the information on it before throwing it back at the other side. The game continues until the teacher says, “Freeze!” Count the number of snowballs on each side. Who has more? Who has less? In this game, the team with the smaller amount is actually the winner! Everyone gets another snowball and the game continues.

*At the beginning of the school year, have children write their names on snowballs and play the game. It’s a great way to get acquainted with classmates.

*As a study review, have children write questions on the snowballs. When children open them they must answer the question before throwing it again. Remind the children that if they don’t know the answer, it’s O.K. to ask a friend for help.

Thursday, June 22, 2017


You can take advantage of all the little “teachable times” in your school day with these ideas. Keep flashcards handy for when you have a few extra minutes before lunch, as children wash hands, or while waiting for the bell to ring. Make a different set of flashcards every few weeks that focus on specific skills your students need to master. You can use these games for letters, shapes, numbers, sight words, math facts, etc.
*Store games in a sand bucket on your desk for easy access.

*Keeping Score – Try this idea to avoid students being too aggressive. Cut out two circles from poster board and glue them together. Write “high” on one side and “low” on the other. After playing a game toss the circle. If “high” appears the team with the highest score wins. If “low” comes up the team with the lowest score is the winner.
Hint! If children don’t know the answer when playing games allow them to “phone a friend” (ask a friend) or “ask the audience” (ask the class).

Write “BOOM!” with a bright marker or glitter pen on several of the flashcards. As you “flash” through the cards, children identify the information. When “BOOM!” appears, children jump up and shout out “Boom!”
*Change the surprise word for different holidays and seasons. In January use a snowman sticker and write “Brrrr!” The children stand up and pretend to shiver when it appears.

*Another fun version is “cowboys” and “chickens.” Insert pictures of a few cowboys and a few chickens. When the cowboy appears the children stand up and pretend to twirl a lasso. When the chicken appears they stand up and flap their arms and cluck.

Kids vs. Teacher
Draw a T chart on the board with “Kids” on one side and “Teacher” on the other side. Hold up a flash card. If a child raises her hand and correctly reads the word, she gets a point for the “kids.” If any child shouts out the answer, then the teacher gets a point.

(If children keep talking out of turn, just continue to give points to the teacher. They’ll figure it out!)

Pick Up
Place the flash cards randomly on the floor in the middle of the room.  Divide the class into two teams. Choose one child from each team to come up and play. Call out a word. The first child to pick it up wins a point for their team.

*At the beginning of the school year write the children’s names on plates. Have children stand in a circle and place 5 plates on the floor. Sing, “If your name is on a plate pick it up” to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”

Musical Plates
You remember the old game where you placed chairs in a circle and walked around until the music stopped? If you didn’t find a chair you were OUT! This is a similar game that can be used to reinforce letters, words, math facts. etc. Write information you want to reinforce on paper plates. Scatter them on the floor. Play some catchy music for the children to dance to. When the music stops each child finds a paper plate and picks it up. The teacher randomly points to various children to identify the information on their plate.
Word Worm
Draw the face of a worm on a 9” circle. Pass out a word card to each child. One at a time children come up and place their word next to the worm’s head. Each child reads all of the previous words before placing her word down. How long can the worm grow?
Note! Children can “ask the audience” to read with them if they are unsure of the words.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


We’re off on our family vacation today and I won’t be home until July 3rd. Of course, I’ve done my lesson plans like a “good” teacher so you’ll have something to keep you busy while I’m gone.
One of the sessions that I’m doing at the I Teach Kindergarten Conference in Las Vegas in a few weeks is called “Game On!” If you’re not going to the conference, I’ll be sharing the content from that session so you’ll have ideas, patterns, and a bucket of games when school begins.

All you have to say is, “Let’s play a game!” and you will naturally engage your students. But there’s more than PLAY going on with these games!

Standards – Sugar coat those standards by developing a game around the skills you want to reinforce.

Executive Function – Through games children can develop task initiation and completion because there is a beginning and an end. They also learn self- regulation and delayed gratification.

Active Learning – With games children can talk, interact with friends, and use multi-sensory materials.

Purposeful Practice for Automaticity – In order to master skills children need to repeat and practice them. Clearly, kids would rather do that with a game than with a worksheet.

Intentional Teaching – Teachers can create flashcard games, board games, or a variety of games based on any skill (letters, numbers, sight words, vocabulary, math facts, science or social studies, etc.) Think about skills in your curriculum and there’s the content for your game.

21st Century Skills – Children will naturally develop cooperation, collaboration, and communication as they share and play games.

Brain Research – The brain likes anything that is novel and challenging. Games add that element of fun and motivation to academic content.

Differentiated Instruction – Games can be adapted for specific needs and used for small group, independent, or take home practice.

Limited English Learners – Games can provide that visual and auditory connection in a non-threatening way.

Instructional Time – Take advantage of transitions and those few extra minutes during the school day by playing games.

Look at your standards. What skills do your students need to master?
Are they struggling with any letters, sight words, shapes, math facts?
Be specific with the content you choose. Start simple and make the games increasingly complex. Remember, nothing succeeds like success.

construction paper, poster board, fun foam, file folders, scissors, tape, glue, hole punch, jumbo craft sticks, magnetic letters, markers, recycled materials, small toys and inexpensive items you can find in a dollar store

You can make games yourself.
You can ask parents to make games for you.
You can share games and rotate them with other teachers.

Store games in zip bags, manila envelopes, pencil boxes, plastic tubs, or other containers. *Hint! Color code with stickers to indicate content area.

Demonstrate how to play the games and keep the rules simple. It often takes several times for the children to “get” a game. Model how to care for the materials and clean up.

Games can be used for large group instruction during transitions. They can be used with small skill based instructional groups. And, they can be used for independent practice.

Tip! Use games to motivate your students by saying, “If you work hard we will have time to play a game.”

*Try using “Brain Lotion” before playing games with pieces. (Take the label off a bottle of hand sanitizer and replace it with a label that says “Brian Lotion.” This will keep your games clean and germ free.)

YOU add the magic! You can take any game and make it more exciting with your attitude. Be dramatic and challenge your students! Come back tomorrow for some “quickie” flash card games.


State and City Song (Holly Koop, Grand Forks, ND – Traci Plante / Singer)
Children will easily remember their city and state when you sing them to “Yankee Doodle.”
     Here I am in name of state
     Living happily!
     All my friends and relatives are
     Nice as they can be!
     City, I love you!
     City, is my home!
     State is my state
     And for this we celebrate!

Brown Bag Special (Diane Landoll, Lawton, OK)
For parents who work, send projects home in a brown grocery sack marked “Brown Bag Special.” Include materials, patterns, and directions for what you want them to make. The child will be so excited to take the bag home and the parent will feel positive about what they have contributed to your classroom.

Blessing (Deanna Hofmeister & Tami Zwaschka, Mankato, MN)
Here’s a sweet blessing to the tune of “Twinkle Little Star.” (Although you can’t use this in a public school, you could use it in a church school or with your children at home.)
     Thank you, thank you, Lord we pray
     For this food we have today.
     We love you so very much.
     God bless every one of us.
     Thank you, thank you, Lord we pray
     For this food we have today.

Recall Bears
Connie Cook cuts out bear heads and writes story elements (Who? What? When? Where? Why?) on them. Children pick a bear before the story and then answer it after the story.
Shoe Tying Journey (Allison Caspers, Oak Grove Lutheran)
Kindergarteners know how to navigate the web, but many do not know how to tie shoes. Get a suitcase and put an old shoe in it along with the poem below. (Allison uses two suitcases.) Each night a child gets to take home the suitcase and practice tying the shoe. When they have completed their “Shoe Tying Journey” they receive a PASSPORT OF ACCOMPLISHMENT for learning to tie their shoes.

*There are several sites online where you can download free certificates.
1-2-3-4 – Tying Shoes
Let’s get ready to tie your shoes.
Over and under. Now, what to do? (Pull strings tight.)
1. Make a loop that looks like a tree. (Make a loop with right string.)
2. The other string is a rabbit you see. (Hold up left string.)
3. The rabbit goes around and in a hole. (Take left string around loop and stick
in the hole.)
4. Pull the loops tight and there is your bow! (Take both loops and pull.)

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


We all know how critical it is to involve parents in their child's education.  These books provide a hands-on activity that will encourage parents to talk to their children about school and what they are learning.  The books will also be a great addition to your classroom library.

Home-School Alphabet Book
Send a page with a letter on it home with each child. Ask them to decorate it with their 

parents. Put the letters together to make a class ABC book.
Home-School Number Book
Create a take home number book that every child can add to and will enjoy reading. Include a note so parents will know what to do. The first child takes the book home and makes a set of one on the first page. The second child takes the book home and makes a set of two on the second page. The third child….etc.

Brain Hug Song (Dara Gee, Lawton, OK)
(Tune: “If You’re Happy”)
I’m wrapped up (Extend arms and cross.)
Twisted up (Clasp fingers.)
Tangled up (Bring clasped hands under and next to chest.)
With self control.
I’m wrapped up (Extend arms and cross.)
Twisted up (Clasp fingers.)
Tangled up (Bring clasped hands under and next to chest.)
With self control.
I take care of me
With responsibility.
I’m wrapped up (Extend arms and cross.)
Twisted up (Clasp fingers.)
Tangled up (Bring clasped hands under and next to chest.)
With self control.

15 Minutes of Walking/Exercise
Try building 15 minutes of walking each day as you count, sing letter songs, say days of the week, months, and review other information.

Twiddle Your Thumbs (Janice Biederman)
While waiting, have the children twiddle their thumbs forwards, backwards, fast, slow, happy, sad, and so forth.
Electronic Books vs. the REAL Thing
Download a copy of a favorite children’s book on your Kindle, IPad, etc. Let the children compare and contrast illustrations from the real book and the electronic format.

Laptops for Every Child
A teacher explained at her first parents’ meeting that she recommended that every child needed at least one laptop – two if possible. It’s not the kind of laptop that you plug in, but the kind with two knees. This laptop is perfect for reading, talking, hugging, and singing!

Name Cards and Secret Words (Crystal and Shelley, Long Beach, CA)
Make name cards for each child. On the back of each card write a sight word. Look for a word embedded in the child’s name. (Almost everybody’s name has a “secret word” inside.) For example, Lindsey has “in.” John has “oh.” Ashley has “as.”
Number Yoga (Michelle Drees, Danbury, IA)
Have children hold yoga positions as you practice counting.
(Scholastic has a cool alphabet book of yoga poses!)

Bear Hug Letter (Susan Finklestein, Montgomery, AL)
Send home a note shaped like a bear that says, “My teacher is so proud of me. Give me a bear hug!”


Monday, June 19, 2017


QUIET Man (Candace Reed)
Make "quiet man" with your fingers by sticking up pinky and pointer and touching thumb, ring man, and tall man. When the teacher holds up "quiet man" the children respond by making "quiet man" and focusing on the teacher.
Quiet Hands
When you want children to settle down ask them to show you their “quiet hands” as you model folding your hands. When they focus on their hands they will become quiet.

Magic Triangle  (Cathy Crady)
Remind children that they all have a magic triangle in their pocket. (Place pointers and thumbs next to each other to form a triangle.) When they need to calm down or if a child is upset she has them take out their magic triangle and hold it in front of their mouth. She tells them to take a deep breath in through their nose, and then slowly blow through the triangle.

Word Hunt (Amy Fritz)
Each week students use their journal to go on a word hunt. Words must begin with a different letter or digraph each week and must be found in the classroom.

*Adapt for parts of speech, math words, seasonal words, etc.
Secret Message in Sign (Melanie Wilkins)
Enlarge sign language letters and attach a magnetic strip to the back of each letter. Write a "secret” message or word each day on the board for the children to decode and write on their morning work.

Karaoke Kafe (Pam Stonecipher)
Encourage children to share their stories, journals, and other writings with Karaoke Kafe. Provide a play microphone and special chair where they can sit and read to classmates. Younger children could recite nursery rhymes.

Good Job Rally (Veda Hamrick)
Have children form two lines facing each other. One at a time children walk between the two lines as friends give them "high five" and say, "Good job!"

Bubbles and Duck Tails (Jennifer Conatser)
Before lining up say, "bubbles and duck tails." Children put imaginary bubbles in their mouths and put their hands behind their backs to make duck tails.

Mailbox Vocabulary (Cheryl Grasso, Boston)
Place a small mailbox on your desk. If the flag is up, that means there is a new vocabulary word in the mailbox. Model using the “special delivery” word in sentences throughout the day.

Happy Day
(Tune: “Happy Birthday to You”)
Hello! Good Day!
You’re looking mighty fine.
Come in and have a seat
And be a friend of mine.

Put Your Bottom on the Rug

(Tune: “If You’re Happy and You Know It”)
Put your bottom on the rug, on the rug.
Put your bottom on the rug, on the rug.
Put your bottom on the rug, then give yourself a hug.
Put your bottom on the rug, on the rug.