Wednesday, August 16, 2017


You know I LOVE sign language! I’m certainly no expert, but if I can do it, anybody can do it. Let me give you a few reasons why I’m such a believer in the power of SIGN:
It’s quiet.
It’s multi-sensory.
It’s engaging.
It’s good for differentiated instruction and for children who are non-English speakers.
It’s free and it’s simple.

Here are some great signs for classroom management to start your school year. I’d explain to the class that you are going to teach them a new language called “sign language.” It’s a special language for people who can’t hear because you talk with your hands. I’d suggest introducing one new sign each day. Encourage the children to model what you do when you make the sign. In a few weeks, you’ll be amazed at how the volume in your classroom has been turned down.

Pay Attention (Palms pointing towards face and shake back and forth.)

Stand Up (Two fingers standing on palm and then point up.)

Sit Down (Two fingers sitting on 2 fingers of other hand and point down.)

Walk (Walk fingers.)

Line Up (Fingers up with right pinky and left thumb touching.)

Bathroom (Make “t” and wiggle.)

Water (Make “w” with fingers and place near your mouth.)

More (Fingertips touching.)

Wonderful (Palms open facing out and move down and then up.)

I love you! (Fingers up with middle finger and ring finger bent down.)

Look! Listen! Learn (“L” by eyes, ears, and then brain.)

Finished (Brush hands away from chest.)

Help (Make a fist with one hand and place it on the open palm of the other hand. Bring both up in the air at the same time.)

Stop (One palm open. Pretend to chop it with the other palm.)

Wait (Hold hands open and off to the side and wiggle the fingers.)

Yes (Make an “s” with your fist and raise and lower it like your head.)

No (Middle and index finger straight and close toward the thumb.)

Please (One palm open on chest and make a circular motion.)

Thank you (Touch fingertips on chin and extend out.)

Sorry (Make fist and rub on chest in circular motion.)

Excuse me (One palm up and brush fingertips of other hand across.)

Note!  There are several excellent websites where you can view videos of these signs.  (,, and

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


I have so much fun learning new ideas from teachers all over the country. I bet you'll find an idea or two just right for your class today.

Dental Health (Stephanie Velasquez)
Glue the cut out of a white tooth on a colored sheet of paper and place in a clear sheet protector. Let the children color the tooth with a dry erase marker to represent the “germs" on the tooth after they eat. Children use a toothbrush to erase the germs.

Old MacDonald (Clarisa Ehrmantraut)
Make a red barn out of paper and staple a zip bag behind it. Use pictures of animals and insert them in the baggie as you sing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”

Pool Noodle Wiggle Sticks (Alison Zukowski)
Poke holes through a swim noodle (6”-12” long) and thread ribbon through it. Knot the ribbon and use for movement activities.
*Tie ribbons to diving rings and use for movement activities. 

Puppets (Nancy Patrick)
Use puppets to sing the song "I Had a Bird."
Swat Game (Elizabeth Allen)
Write letters, numbers, colors, shapes, words, or whatever skill you want to reinforce on a big piece of paper. Give children small fly swatters and as you call out information they can "swat" it. 

Same Song - New Verse (Megan Munselle)
Here are some new verses for "The Banana Dance."
Build the house, build build the house...Rock the house, rock, rock the house...
Form the Skittles, eat the Skittles, taste the rainbow...
Form the potato, peel the potato, mash potatoes...

Listen and Obey (Stephanie Velasquez) 
If we listen to our teachers (point to ears) 
And do it right away. (point with finger) 
Happy, happy, happy is our day. (point and smile) 
OBEY! (Everyone yells together.) 

Morning Dance (Genevieve Shafer) 
This call and response reminds students to have a positive attitude, it’s O.K. to make mistakes, and they are all special. 
I am ready for school. (wiggle shoulders) 
I will have a good day. (twist) 
I am confident. (stand tall)
I’m not better than you. (lean and point to the side) 
You’re not better than me. (lean and point to the other side) 
We’re all amazing! (spin with arms up) 
If I fall, I get up. (tuck and touch floor and stand up “x” with body) 
I win or I learn. 
Thank you God for making me. (pray hands) 
I’m exactly who I’m supposed to be! (say loud and proud while jumping with arms in the air) 

Classroom Mirror (Andrea Neal) 
Children love using mirrors in the classroom. Cover a mirror and ask students to look under it to see your favorite kid. 
*If a student is upset, sad, or misbehaving then ask them to go find the happy well-behaved student that you know in the mirror. When they see themselves they will smile, and it usually changes their attitude. 

Under (Elma Valdez) 
Tape caution tape across the classroom doorway and have the children crawl “UNDER” the tape for the letter “U.” 

Monday, August 14, 2017


Pat Gusoff told me about a fantastic family project she uses to decorate her room. You're going to love her ideas! 

Here is the canvas color board idea I did last year with my families.

First we made the “white” board together as a classroom activity. We “hid” white items all over the room and went on a color hunt!

This is a copy of the letter that I sent home. The children colored their note with their specific color.

We kept them hanging up all year and sent them home at the end of the school year!
Note! Michaels carries 8x8 canvas boards in packs of fives. Use your teacher discount and coupons that come in the mail.

I drew picture frames outside of our classroom for our children's first one-hour visit to draw their self portraits!

Go Fishing
Here is an oil pan from the dollar store that I painted blue with acrylic paint. I’ll fill it with water for the ping pong balls that I numbered and mini sharks! Happy fishing with the lobster claws!

P.S. She calls her ideas "Pat-rest" instead of Pinterest!

Sunday, August 13, 2017


Over 40 years ago when I taught in the lab kindergarten at DeKalb College I found a purple ditto in an old file with this thought on it. “Source Unknown” was all it said at the bottom. Times have changed, but our hearts as educators remain the same. On this Sunday before many of you start your journey into the new school year I thought it was appropriate to remember WHY we do WHAT we do!

When I am introduced as a teacher, I generally hear a very flat, “Oh.” I have never been certain whether that is an expression of sympathy, pity, arrogance, or disinterest. Always I wish I had time to explain to them like this. Yes! I’m a teacher and I love my job!

Where else would a handsome and very young man put his arms around me and ask, “Do you know I love you?”

Where else could my limited wardrobe be complimented or have someone say, “You sing pretty.”

Where else could I eat a soiled cookie from a grimy little hand and not become ill?

Where else could I guide a chubby hand that some day may write a book or important document?

Where else could I get to play outside, laugh, sing, read and get paid for it?

Where else could I forget my own aches and pains because of so many scratched knees, bumped heads, and broken hearts that need care?

Where else could I forget about taxes and our country’s political problems because Josh isn’t adjusting as he should and Margo needs help with her math?

Where else could my mind stay so young as with a group whose attention span is so short that I must always keep a bag of tricks up my sleeve?

Where else could I feel so close to my Maker as I do each year because of something that I have done to help one of His little children learn and grow.

Yes, I am a teacher and I LOVE my job!

Saturday, August 12, 2017


Do you remember Deputy Barney Fife from Mayberry RFD? One of his favorite sayings was “nip it in the bud.” That’s something to take to heart as the school year starts. Take your time to teach rules and routines and the rest of your year will go much smoother.

Rules help children feel secure and know what behavior is expected of them. Choose a few simple rules and state them in a positive way. You can get a free download of this “Rules Rap” from my website this month.

Rules Rap
The rules, the rules, the rules of the classroom. (Snap fingers.)
The rules, the rules, the rules of the classroom.

Follow, follow, follow directions, (Point index fingers.)
Follow, follow, follow directions. Chorus

Feet and hands, feet and hands, (Point to feet and hands.)
Feet and hands to yourself. Chorus

Small voices inside, tall voices on the playground.
(Quiet voice, then loud voice.)
Small voices inside, tall voices on the playground. Chorus

Work together, don’t fight, or you’ll get in trouble.
(Clasp hands, then hold nose.)
Work together, don’t fight, or you’ll get in trouble. Chorus

Here's a video where your children can do the "Rules Rap" with me.

After teaching the class the “Rules Rap” discuss why rules are important. Say, “I know everyone in our class has a good rule to share with us.” Give each child a sheet of paper to draw a rule. Older students can write the rule and younger students can dictate the rule. Put their rules together, make a cover, and bind to make a book. Explain that when adults agree to do something they sign a contract. “Everyone made these rules. Are you all going to obey these rules? (Of course, they’ll agree!) Then I’m going to let you put your thumb on an ink pad and stamp your thumbprint on our book to show that you will abide by these rules.” 
When children are doing something they shouldn’t be doing take the book and point to a page as you say, “Look, it says _______ in the book. Show me the right thing to do.” (Most of them can’t read anyway, so you can turn to any page in the book!)

Friday, August 11, 2017


I am frequently asked about center management.  There is no “right” or “wrong” way, but you do have to adapt to your district’s requirements, the age of your students, and your standards.  Here are some strategies that I have used in the past.

Weekly Contract
Each week my students received a “contract” with ten centers they “got” to visit during the week. We did center rotation for 45 minutes at the end of the day when they were too exhausted to sit and listen. They got to choose where they went and how long they stayed in each center, but the goal was to do all ten activities by the end of the week. If they finished they got “Fabulous Friday”! What was Fabulous Friday?? They got to take their shoes off and do whatever they wanted. They LOVED it!!!
After visiting a center they colored it in and then raised their hand. My assistant walked around with a hole punch and would punch the activity after they explained what they did or learned. (During this time I could pull one or two students to give them extra help.)

Yes, I did limit the centers to 2 or 4 at a time. On Monday we’d go around the circle and they chose where they’d like to start. If a center already had four people they had to make another choice. When someone left a popular center then they could go there. This really worked itself out. If they wanted to stay in blocks all day Monday they could, but then they’d have to work a little faster the rest of the week to complete their center cards. It was amazing how they became self-directed learners by the end of the year!

Numbered Centers
I visited another kindergarten that had something similar. Children had index cards with numbers 1-10 on them. These were tied to a string that they wore around their necks. Scattered around the room were the numbers 1-10 with something to do at each station. As children completed the activity they raised their hand and the teacher punched their card.
Check List
Another idea might be to have a class list with the children’s names at each center. Write the focus goal at the top. As children complete assignments they make a smiley face or other comment next to their name.

Choice Board
Make a choice board with the different learning centers you have in your classroom. Put dots to control the number of children who can play in each center at a given time. Write each child’s name on a clothespin or put Velcro on the back of their photo. Children take their clothespin or photo and clip it by the center where they would like to play. If all the spaces are used, then they must make another choice. They may stay there as long as they want. When they leave they take their clothespin and attach it to another center that is open.
*Use alphabetical order to determine who chooses first each day. For example, on Monday the first five children in the alphabet get first choice. On Tuesday, the next five in alphabetical order, etc.

Make a digital camera available so children can take photographs of the work and projects they do in centers.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


I showed this backpack on my webinar yesterday and someone asked for directions and a copy of the poem.

Punch holes in the top of a lunch bag (which is actually the bottom of the bag). You will need to do this for the children. 
Put a pipe cleaner through the holes and twist to make a handle. 
Lift up the flap and tuck the bottom of the bag under it. 
Give this to children when they register and ask them to decorate it and bring it back with a family photo the first day of school. (You could also do this the first day of school.)

*Every child needs a picture of their family at school, and they also need a picture of their classmates at home. At the end of the first week of school make another backpack with a class photo and send it home to encourage children to talk about their new friends.

Here’s my backpack poem to share with parents to remind them how children learn through play.


What’s in your backpack?
It’s empty today.
Where’s your work?
Did you just play?

When I built with blocks
I learned about shapes.
I balanced and shared –
Our skyscraper was great.

I played in the windy house
And talked with my friends.
I rocked a baby
And played pretend

In science I observed,
Guessed, and experimented, too.
The same things grown up
Scientists do.

Art was messy.
I created and explored.
I solved my own problem
When I spilled glue on the floor.

My fingers got a work out
With puzzles and clay.
Those same muscles
Will help me write one day.

I counted and sorted and
And measured, too.
I used my brain
Like a math whiz would do!

Out on the playground
I ran like the wind.
I learned to take turns
And helped a hurt friend.

Story time is what
I always like best.
I can use my imagination
And give my body a rest.

I sang and danced,
Learned a finger play, too.
I answered questions
And said “please” and “thank you.”

There will be time
For worksheets and tests,
But talking and playing
Is how I learn best.

I love to go to school!
I’m glad I’m me.
An empty backpack
Means I’m learning, you see!