Saturday, January 20, 2018


One thing about being in this business for over four decades is that I’ve been through the revolving door many times. I’m excited about putting a little “STEM/STEAM” back in the curriculum by integrating art activities again.
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!

Friday, January 19, 2018


Did you know you that “Twinkle Little Star,” “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” and “The Alphabet” are all sung to the same tune?

You can also use the tune to sing any of your alphabet books or the pictures on your classroom alphabet.  For example:

     A is for apple.
     B is for bear.
     C is for cat.
     D is for dinosaur….

It’s also fun to go around the room and use the children’s names in the song. For example:
D is for Daniel. K is for Karla. M is for Miguel. L is for Lisa....

Here are some other tunes you can use to sing the ABC's:

     “Amazing Grace”
     “Braham’s Lullabye”
     “Mary Had a Little Lamb”
     “The House of the Rising Sun”
“Coming Round the Mountain”

Are there any other tunes you use to sing the alphabet?

Here's a video where I demonstrate these tunes.

Rhyme and Read
Here's a book you can make to sing nursery rhymes and letters to the tune of "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall."

Materials: file folder, 2 book rings, glue, alphabet letters, nursery rhyme posters (I downloaded the nursery rhyme posters from “rhyme a week” at 


Directions: Glue the alphabet to the right side of the file folder. Place the rhymes on the left side of the folder, punch two holes, and attach with book rings as shown. Sing the rhymes and then sing the ABC’s between each verse. 
*Have children clap, snap, tap, thump or make other movements as you sing.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


This was a great game to play when I needed a few minutes to organize or while waiting in the hall. I kept the toy mouse in my pocket and would just pull it out and start the game. It’s one of those simple little things that the kids loved – and it worked!

All you need is a toy mouse or another small animal. Hold the toy in your hand as you say:

          Mousie, mousie, how quiet can you be?

          When I clap my hands, 1-2-3, we shall see!

Clap your hands 3 times, and then pass the toy to a child who is standing/sitting quietly. That child holds the toy, walks around the room, and passes it to another quiet friend. The game continues as children pass the toy to friends who are sitting quietly.

*Use seasonal toys, such as a jack-o-lantern, snowman, or leprechaun.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Last week my friend Leigh Ann Towater said when she put on my DVD a little boy talked to me on the smart board and said, "Get it, girl!" I mean, what 70 year old wouldn't be tickled to death by a comment like that!

I wish I could get in my car and drive across the United States and just "pop" into your classroom. There's nothing that fills my heart quite like being in front of a group of children! Since I can't do that, I've decided to start making some little videos you can share with your class. If you and your children enjoy them, I'll make more and more and more.

"King Kong" and "I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" in sign language are my first two. Let me know what you think. (King Kong)

                            (Sing and Sign "I Know an Old Lady)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Here's another simple idea from Carolyn Kisloski that can make lining up a learning game.

Why?  Taking advantage of those few minute transitions throughout the day can add
hours of instructional time to your year! These activities can make lining up to leave
the room another learning opportunity for your students.

When?  Large group

What?  3” X 5” cards with different numbers on each card

How?  Write one number, zero to twenty (or as many as students in your class), on each
3” X 5” card. Shuffle the cards and hand one to each student sitting at the desk or table. Have students line up in numerical order at the door. 


More?  Have students line up and organize themselves silently. 

As the year progresses, write one number on each card, but begin at a number
other than zero, for instance 12 or 36, and count on from there.

If your class has trouble recognizing certain numbers, for instance 12 and 20 or teen numbers, only hand out cards with those tricky numbers written on the cards. Call twelves to line up. Then, call twenties.

Make cards with numerals, ten frames, dots, or objects. Call a number to line up. 

Draw shapes on cards to practice shape names and recognition.

Use color cards and have students line up in an AB or ABC pattern.

Write, “You go 1st.” or “I am 1st.” on a card for an extra surprise.

Call the game, “Snowball Line-Up,” and have each number written on a piece of
scrap paper. When you call students with a certain number to line up, they can crinkle their paper into a snowball and throw it into the recycling bin on their way to line up.

You could also ask students to put their cards in a basket by the door when they line up so the cards are ready to use next time.

Monday, January 15, 2018


Carolyn Kisloski who created the "Happies" with me is a treasure of good teaching strategies.  Honestly, I've been at this rodeo a LONG time, but she constantly teaches me something new.  


Why?  Little changes make a big difference for children. Special reading spots add an exciting twist to independent reading.

When?  Independent center time, whole group quiet reading

What?  List of reading partners, large craft sticks with different, special reading areas in the classroom written on each stick 

*Have as many special spots as there are groups of partners.

How?  Divide the class into partners for reading. Change the partners often, sometimes matching students with partners on their reading level and sometimes mixing levels. Each pair draws a craft stick with a special reading nook on it which will be their reading spot for the day. Some special places could be underneath tables, by the teacher’s desk, on the rug, in special chairs, or in the hall outside of the classroom. Students can take turns reading one book to each other or take their book bin to their nook and read quietly for the entire independent reading time. After one student reads a book, the partner must ask the reader one question about the book and give the reader one compliment about her reading.

More?  Invite another class, either at your grade level or another grade level, to read with your students during a special reading time.

This is a letter that Carolyn sends home to her families to give them ideas to use when reading at home with their child.  Most parents want to help their children, and this will give them specific strategies that they can use.  Actually, it's a pretty good prompt sheet for teachers as well!


Want more "happies" for your classroom? 

Sunday, January 14, 2018


Cyber world is exploding with social media, smart phones, hand held devices, watches, toys, ad infinitum.  Children can use electronic devices for entertainment, but they are also wonderful tools to help children learn and explore. However, are young children really ready for all the experiences (good, bad, and ugly) that are in cyber world? Parents tell their children not to talk to strangers and not to go to dangerous places in the real world. Likewise, we need to set some boundaries and educate children on internet safety.

Daniel Sherwin ( shared an article he wrote about an experience his child had with cyber bullying. I’m quite certain many of you with older children have had similar issues, and you’ll appreciate the tools and strategies he suggests to help both children and parents cope.

Behind the Screen: How to Help Your Child Overcome a Cyberbully
It used to be that bullying stopped once the final school bell rang, but with millions of children using a computer or phone each day, bullying has found its way onto the screen in the form of cyberbullying. As a parent, you try your best to protect your child, but you can’t always monitor them online.

After my son and I moved to a new city and I got him enrolled in school, he found himself screen-to-screen with an online bully. Two years later, and we have finally found some strategies that work, as well as helpful ways to ease anxiety both at home and at school. Moving creates many emotional challenges for teens, but cyberbullying shouldn’t be one of them. Here are a few tools to help your child cope.

What is Cyberbullying?

Before you can address cyberbullying, you need to first understand what it is. Cyberbullying refers to bullying that takes place using electronic devices such as computers, smartphones, and tablets via communication tools like social media, text messages, and chat rooms. So, what makes this type of bullying different? When it comes to cyberbullying, it can happen 24 hours a day, and it is often posted anonymously and distributed to a large audience of peers, making it difficult to trace back to the source.

While the mean or hateful communication can be deleted, this might not happen until after it has been shared with others. For example, a cyberbully might create a fake social media profile and spread rumors. Even if the account is reported and deleted, others have seen and likely shared it, or taken pictures of it on their phone to share with others. While bullying that happens in person is often one or several isolated events, cyberbullying has a direct impact that can spread long after the initial contact.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open
When my son first approached me about his cyberbully, my first thought was to get the school involved – I wanted to put a stop to it immediately. However, the bully was anonymous, leaving everyone’s hands tied. After taking time to speak with my child, he revealed that a particular student was mean to him at school, even sending text messages and posting hateful comments on his social media page. Cyberbullying can take on various forms, including harassment, blackmail, and humiliation, so make sure you understand the entire story before developing a plan of action.

The first step to ending cyberbullying is to have a conversation with your child. Bullying is usually related to school life, and your child understands both the situation and context better than anyone, so getting their perspective will be helpful in getting to the bottom of things. Resist the urge to react quickly – the goal isn’t revenge. Your ultimate goal should be to help your child heal and restore their self-respect.

Set the Rules
Set rules as a means of protecting your child, not punishing them. The victims of cyberbullying are just that – victims—but by laying down a few rules, you can put some water on the flames. Sit down with your child and learn how the social networks they use work. Review your child’s online presence and help them set up safeguards against cyberbullying by utilizing privacy settings and reporting tools. While it is tempting to ban computer usage altogether, resist this urge. Taking away electronic privileges not only sends the message that you child is in the wrong, but it could lead them to be more secretive with their online life. Instead, set time limits for screen time and encourage positive activities.

One of the largest effects of cyberbullying is anxiety and stress, and due to its online reach, your child might feel like their home is no longer a place of solitude and calm. Make your home a stress-free zone by encouraging your child to do things they enjoy such as sports or hobbies. For my son and I, we found that escaping to the yard to kick around the soccer ball before dinner was a great stress reliever, and put us both in a comfortable zone to open up conversation about school, activities, and life.

Cyberbullying is far-reaching, making it seem scary and impossible to tackle. Spend some time talking with your child, set rules for online time, and build up their self-respect by spending time together unplugged.