Friday, October 31, 2014


Herbie is winning football games and his Husker fans had some winning ideas to share with me this week in Omaha. I was also in Kansas City, and they were pretty pumped about Sluggerrr!  The Royals might not have won the World Series, but they won the hearts of their fans this season.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


For homework this weekend ask your students to save all their candy wrappers and bring them to school Monday. Here are some learning activities that will taste “yummy” to your class!

Counting - Count the wrappers. Tally how many in the whole class.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


How many old ladies do you know besides me? I know the “Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” She also swallowed a pie and a bat and a chick and numbers… She must be getting pretty full! The Old Lady is entertaining, but she also helps children with recall, sequence, phonological awareness, and oral language. 

Here are a few visuals and craft activities that can be adapted to any version of the Old Lady. You can find free images online for the different stories or let children make their own illustrations.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


It’s time for a little geometry today, but these ideas will also reinforce small motor skills, letters, and creativity. 

What’s a line? What’s a curve? 
Start by finding out what children know about lines and curves. Let them take turns drawing lines and curves on the board. Can they walk around the room and touch a line?  Can they touch a curve? As you walk down the hall have them silently point to lines and curves. Can they find lines and curves in nature on the playground?

Monday, October 27, 2014


I have so much fun coming up with new ideas for my blog every day. Actually, these ideas are old as I am, but it’s fun to adapt them to the season or skills you might need to reinforce. I thought it might be interesting to brainstorm a few ways to integrate vocabulary and spelling words with Halloween. (Even though you might not do holidays in your school, you can make these work for “autumn” or another theme.) 

Mixed Up Words - Take vocabulary words, Halloween words, or spelling words and mix up the letters. Challenge children to figure out the words and try to write them correctly on their paper.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


I'm going to Kansas City, and Omaha here I come.
I'm going to Kansas City, and Omaha here I come.
They've got some awesome teachers there,
And I'm going sing with some!

I really am on my way to Omaha and Kansas City this week. I'll be doing my swan song of "Rock, Rhyme, Write, and Read" as you can see from my schedule below. I'm super excited about my new two-day training I'll be starting later in the spring. Hope I'll see you at one of these events!

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Read at Home Book
Cut 9” x 12” sheets of construction paper in half. Let each child choose 4 or 5 different colors and staple them together to make a book. Write “I Can Read” on the front and let the children decorate with their name and picture. Send the book home with a note to the parents about helping their child recognize different logos, signs, and words on products and in the home and as they drive down the road. Encourage parents to help their child cut out words they can read from boxes, magazines, and advertisements. Ask children to bring their books back to school to “read” with classmates.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Children are naturally curious about all the signs and words they see daily in their environment. By using environmental print we can help children make print connections, develop visual memory skills, and motivate them to read. 

Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard

Ask children to save food wrappers from snacks and their lunches. Glue wrappers to sheets of paper and write this rhyme at the top of each page:
            Old Mother Hubbard
            Went to her cupboard
            To get her poor dog a bone.
            But when she got there
            The cupboard was bare
            And so the poor dog had…(Children read food logo.)

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Brain research emphasizes the importance of having children recall information throughout the day. (Think of it as that extra pat on the back or a second helping of dessert.) What a simple strategy that most of us don’t utilize nearly as much as we should. Here are a few tips for having children recall information after you’ve read a story, taught a lesson, or at the end of the day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Today is National Nut Day, but those of you with peanut allergies don’t have to worry about this blog. Here’s a nutty song for you!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Did you know that today is Babble Day? What will they think of next? It might be a good day to talk about what the word "babble" means. How many synonyms can you think of for the word "babble"?

I'm going to get on my soap box about the importance of babbling/talking/oral communication. Download the free app called "dragon." Or, just hit the microphone the next time you want to send a text or email and you'll have an "ah ha" moment! The children in your classroom will probably all have voice activated computers in the near future. They need to be able to organize their thoughts and express themselves clearly for the message to appear accurately on the screen. Like anything else, if we want children to be able to communicate orally, we have to provide them with opportunities to talk, talk, talk.

Monday, October 20, 2014


Several years ago while visiting a school I saw two shiny new bikes on display in the library. Every time a child read a book they got to put their name on a ticket to win the bike. What a great way to motivate children to read! These ideas aren’t quite as big as a bike, but I bet you might spark a little interest with them.

Book Drawing - You will need a roll of tickets (purchase at an office supply store) or make your own. Each time a child reads a book she gets to write her name on a ticket.  Collect these in a sack during the week. On Friday, draw a name out of the sack and that child WINS a book! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Tired of giving out candy and stickers?  Try these inexpensive rewards for a special treat!   Choose activities that you think would work best for your students from the list below.  You could even let your students suggest activities.  Write these on jumbo craft sticks with a permanent Sharpie and then put the sticks in a cup.  Act like the children are “winning” something when they get to draw a happie stick from the can.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Want kids to get excited about learning letters and sounds? Well, just try this rap and you’ll see some enthusiasm.

Happy Birthday Letters   (Totally Reading CD)
Yo, A,
It’s your birthday. (Bend over like a rapper.)
Let’s all read
Like your birthday.
/a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ (Fists together and make circular motion clockwise.)
/a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ /a/ (Fists together and go counterclockwise.)
Yo, B…etc.

Friday, October 17, 2014


In the new book “How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens” (Random House), Benedict Carey says, “The brain wants variation…It wants to move, it wants to take periodic breaks.” Although Carey’s research is focused on older learners, anybody who teaches young children knows this for a fact. You’ve got to vary the stimulus to focus children’s attention, and you’ve got to give them an outlet to release wiggles every 15 minutes. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Counting is a basic strand across math standards. There’s even research that suggests counting with pre-k children can build math concepts they will use later on in kindergarten and primary grades. To avoid rote counting without meaning, let TOUCH AND COUNT be the mantra you repeat and model over and over. Counting will also have more meaning if you tie it into exercise with one of these ideas. 

*Adapt these activities for younger children by just counting from 1-10. Older students can count to 100 and beyond.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


“Sometimes looking into a classroom is a bit like looking into a beehive: the uninformed visitor might see lots of bees moving in many directions with no apparent logic, but the beekeeper knows what each bee is doing and how the activity fits within the overall

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


"Bat" your class will scream for some of these Halloween jokes!

Hint!  Write children's names on craft sticks and choose a child to tell a joke when you have a few extra minutes.

Monday, October 13, 2014


Did you know that this Thursday, October 16th, is Dictionary Day? It's actually Noah Webster's birthday and a perfect day to let each child make her own personal dictionary.  
Materials: pocket folder, prepared pages with alphabet letters, markers
*Here’s a link where you can download the pages with letters:

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Here’s a delightful adaptation to a flashcard game. You can use this for letters, sight words, sets, numerals, shapes, math facts, or any skill that needs practice. 

Hint! One pre-reading skill for younger children that can be reinforced with this game is RAN – Rapid Automatic Naming. (How quickly can children see something and retrieve the word for it.) Glue pictures of different categories you are studying (farm animals, fruits, clothing, etc.) on flashcards for children to name. 


Saturday, October 11, 2014


Wake up!  It's game day!  Time to make some pompoms and cheer and learn!

WHY? small motor skills; reading and math skills; exercising the brain
WHAT? paper lunch sacks, scissors, crayons or markers, rubber bands
HOW? Draw lines from the top of the lunch sack to the bottom flap about ½” apart. Let children decorate their bags, and then cut down on the lines. Place the flap face down on the table and roll. Wrap a rubber band around the bottom section to make a        handle. (You can also use tape to secure the handle.) “Squinch” the strips and shake like pompoms. Use to engage children, release wiggles, and reinforce skills with the activities below. 


Friday, October 10, 2014


As a follow up from Grandma Vowel, you can introduce some of her other relatives with this song. 
*The vowel sticks would be the perfect visual.
*You could also let the children wear the letter vests or make sign language letters as you sing.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Don’t you love it when you find an extra $20 in a pants pocket or some old thing in your closet that’s back in style? Beverly Free of Ponchatoula, LA, told me this story years ago, but I recently found it in an old handbook. It’s a cute way to help your students remember the long and short vowel sounds.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


What kid doesn’t like pizza? And what kid won’t be excited about doing math with this pizza project? It’s simple to make and multi-functional.
*If you’ve never worked with fun foam before you definitely need to buy a pack for this and other games. You can buy it at Walmart or any craft store, and you don’t have to laminate it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Last week I spoke at the KTOT (Kindergarten Teachers of Texas) Hu-Latta Learning Conference in Corpus Christi. It was a GREAT conference and I met a Hu-latta FANTASTIC teachers!!! 

My flight arrived early enough for me to sing at Calallen East Elementary. What precious, precious children – what enthusiastic and committed teachers!!! Every child sang and participated because Mrs. Murphy the music teacher said they WORK on being a good audience. They set high expectations for their students and the teachers add the magic by modeling what they expect their students to do. 
Katie Cavazos organized the event and I got to visit her classroom. I want to be her assistant teacher!!! What a special place!!  Here’s the chair her father made where the important person of the week gets to sit. 

Here’s her library loft. 
Katie also said her kids LOVE my stinky cheese game. It’s sitting below their interactive writing and Katie said it’s almost worn out from playing it so much.

You know, it’s not the game or the song or anything that I might share with you. It’s the MAGIC that you add!!  Thank you, Katie, and every teacher that uses one of my ideas!

Monday, October 6, 2014


It's a long time since Columbus sailed the ocean blue, but it won't be long until Columbus Day, 2014, is here.

Columbus Day
(Tune: “Going Over the Sea” - Happy Everything CD Disk 1)
Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 

(Stand and salute alternating hands.)
The Nina, and the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, too.
Going over going under in the Atlantic Ocean’s thunder, 
(Hands go up and down.)
What a brave thing to do! 
(Thumbs in to chest.)
When Columbus set sail he knew the earth was round.
(Make a circle with arms.)
He was amazed at all the lands and the people he found.
Going over, going under, in the Atlantic Ocean’s thunder,
(Make hands go up and down.)
What a brave thing to do! 
(Thumbs in to chest.)
Columbus visited Bahamas, Cuba, South America, too. 
(Hold up fingers.)
On October 12 we remember him and his crew. 
(Index finger in air and shake.)
Going over, going under, in the Atlantic Ocean’s thunder,
(Hands up and down.)
What a brave thing to do! 
(Thumbs in to chest.)
*You can download a book that goes with this song on my website.

Sailor Hats - Make sailor hats out of newspaper. Fold in half. Bring corners down until they meet. Fold up top edge and then turn over and fold up the bottom edge. Let children decorate.

Globe – Point out where Columbus started in Spain and the islands he visited. How has travel changed since Columbus’s voyage over 500 years ago?

Travel Chest – Fold a brown sheet of paper in half and decorate the front to look like a sailor’s chest. “If you were a sailor going on a voyage that would last for many years what would you pack in your chest?” Children can draw pictures and label what they would need.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


This is one of my all time favorite finger plays and it never goes out of style!
Jack O’ Happy
This is Jack O’ Happy. (Hands circle head and smile.)
This is Jack O’ Sad. (Hands circle head and frown.)
This is Jack O’ Spooky. (Open mouth and eyes wide.)
And this is Jack O’ Mad. (Make a mean face.)
This is Jack in pieces small. (Hold up palms.)
But in a pie he’s best of all. (Circle arms in front as if holding a pie.)

You can download a book for the children to read and color. Or, better yet, download the version with just the words so the children can make their own illustrations.

Once I Had a Pumpkin
(Tune: “Lassie and Laddie”)
Oh, once I had a pumpkin, a pumpkin, a pumpkin. 
         (Hands over head like a pumpkin.)
Oh, once I had a pumpkin with no face at all.
With no eyes and no nose and no mouth and no teeth.
         (Point to facial features.)
Oh, once I had a pumpkin with no face at all.
So I made a jack-o-lantern, jack-o-lantern, jack-o-lantern.
         (Draw a jack-o-lantern in the air.)
So I made a jack-o-lantern, jack-o-lantern, jack-o-lantern.
With big eyes and a big nose and big mouth and big teeth.
         (Draw facial features in the air.)
So I made a jack-o-lantern with a big funny face.

*Draw a jack-o-lantern on the board as you sing the song.

Pumpkin Paint – Mix equal parts of flour and salt. Stir in orange tempera paint. (Obviously, if it’s powdered, you will need to add some water, too.) Add a spoonful of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice to the paint and stir. Children can paint a pumpkin, pumpkin pie, or whatever they want. Their painting will be textured and smell good, too!
Pumpkin Seeds – Before carving your pumpkin, have the children estimate how many seeds they think it will contain and write down their estimations. Have the children separate the seeds and count them. Who guessed more? Who guessed less? Who guessed the closest amount? Cook some of the seeds by rinsing them and frying them in a little butter and salt. Save some of the seeds to plant in the spring.

Five Little Pumpkins
(You can say this or sing it to the tune of “Five Little Ducks.”)
Five little pumpkins sitting on the gate. (Hold up 5 fingers.)
The first one said, “Oh, my it’s getting late.” (Hold up thumb.)
The second one said, “There are witches in the air.”(Hold up index finger.)
The third one said, “But I don’t care.” (Hold up middle finger.)
The fourth one said, “Let’s run and run and run.” (Hold up ring finger.)
The fifth one said, “I’m ready for some fun.” (Hold up pinky.)
Ooooo! Went the wind, and out went the light. (Blow and then clap.)
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight! (Roll hands behind back.)

Paper Plate Pumpkins – Make pumpkins out of paper plates. Choose five children to hold the pumpkins as you say the rhyme. You could also cut pumpkins out of felt and use on a flannel board.
Pumpkin Play Dough – Make homemade play dough and add red and yellow food coloring to make it orange. Let the children knead in pumpkin pie spices. They’ll have fun making pumpkins, pies, and other characters. 
Math Games - Make games where children seriate pumpkins from large to small or put pumpkins in numerical order.

P.S.  It's Do Something Nice Day!

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Oh, how my children loved these stories! These are ones they begged, "Do it again! Do it again!"

Pumpkin House Cut and Tell Story
Materials: orange paper, scissors
Directions: Place the orange paper and scissors in your lap. As you tell the story cut out the different parts with the scissors. At end of the story, the children will be delighted with the pumpkin house!
Hint! You can also tear out the paper with your fingers.

Once there was a little old lady who lived in a funny orange house near name of your school. Her house was shaped like half a circle with the chimney at the bottom.  (Fold the paper in half and cut out a semi-circle with a stem.)

This little lady had a cat named child’s name in your room. This cat had a long, curved tail, so the old lady had a special door cut just for the cat’s tail.  (Cut out a curvy tail.)

The little lady always wore a pointed hat. She had a special door built for herself, too, so her hat would not fall off every time she went in and out the door.  (Cut out a triangle.)

The little lady had two pet birds. Their names were child’s name and child’s name. She had a window cut just for them so they could fly in and out and in and out.  (Cut out a circle.)

It was getting close to Halloween, so all the children in teacher’s name classroom went to her house and knocked on her door. The little lady came to the door and said, “Close your eyes.” SURPRISE! It’s a jack-o-lantern!  (Open and hold up over your face.)

Pumpkin Man Tell and Draw Story
Materials: large sheet of paper, marker 

Directions: Explain that you will need everyone to help you tell this story. Demonstrate the movements below. When you say the words in the story, then the children should make the motions.

“Knock” – pretend to knock on a door

“Rock” – move body back and forth

“Spin” – twirl hands around each other

“Come In” – make motion with hand

Draw the body parts on the paper as you come to them in the story.

Once there was a little old lady who would just sit all day and rock and spin and wait for somebody to come in.
 One day as she rocked and spun she heard a knock at the door. “Come in,” she called. In came two big, black boots. (Draw boots on the board.) “I can’t talk to you big, black boots,” said the little old lady. So she just sat there and rocked and spun until she heard a knock at the door. “Come in,” she called. And in came two bony legs. (Draw two skinny legs coming out of the boots.) “I can’t talk to two bony legs,” said the little old lady.
 So she just sat there and rocked and spun until she heard a knock at the door.
 “Come in,” she called. And in came a funny body. (Draw a pear shaped body on top of the legs.) “I can’t talk to a funny body,” said the little old lady.
 So she just sat there and rocked and spun until she heard a knock at the door. “Come in,” she called. And in came two wiggly arms. (Draw wiggly arms coming off the body.) “I can’t talk to wiggly arms,” said the little old lady.
 So she just sat there and rocked and spun until she heard a knock at the door. “Come in,” she called. And in came two big hands. (Draw hands at the end of the arms.) “I can’t talk to two big hands,” said the little old lady.
 So she just sat there and rocked and spun until she heard a knock at the door. “Come in,” she called. And in came a big pumpkin head. (Draw a pumpkin head on the figure.) “Well, I can talk to a pumpkin man,” said the little old lady. And she did! 

Adaptations: End by singing “Do You Know the Pumpkin Man?” to the tune of “Do You Know the Muffin Man?”

And here's a little spooky treat to eat while you listen to the stories.  Open a napkin, place a lollipop in the middle, gather the napkin around the sucker, and tie with a piece of string or yarn.  Decorate with a marker.  

Friday, October 3, 2014


(Tune: “Spiderman” Cartoon)
Spider rings, spider rings.
They are such a fun thing.
Spider rings, spider rings,
You can teach anything.
Come on! Have fun with spider rings.

This is what I do in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. I think of things to put on my blog! And the good news is most everything I share is cheap, easy, hands-on, and FUN! Plastic spider rings are plentiful this time of year, so here are a few ideas I came up with.

Ask children to sort the rings. What was their sorting rule?

Put different amounts of spider rings in bags or cups. Number the cups. Children count and then record their answers.

Draw spider webs and label with numerals or number words. Children make appropriate sets. 
Addition and Subtraction
Children can work out math problems with the spider rings.

Fill a plastic jar with spider rings. Children estimate how many and then write it on a sheet of paper with their name. At the end of the day count the spiders. Who guessed more? Less? Who was closest?

Give each child a spider ring. Can you put it above your head? Can you put it beside you? Can you put it between your knees? Etc.

Children can use spider rings to sing the “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” Sing “The BIG FAT Spider” with a loud voice. Sing the “Teensy Weensy Spider” with a high, squeaky voice.

Nursery Rhyme
Let one child be little Miss Muffet. Tie a string to a spider ring and let another child dangle it as you say the rhyme.
Cut notches in a paper plate. Children can weave yarn through the notches and then tie a ring to the end of the yarn.
Children can dip spiders in paint and then use them like paint brushes.
Can children continue a pattern with the spiders? Can they create an AB, or ABB pattern?
Children draw a spider web on a paper plate. They can write a story about a spider on the back of the plate.

What’s the difference between a spider and an insect? How many legs does a spider have? How many legs on 2 spiders? 3 spiders?

What Can You Find Out?
Collect books about spiders from the library. Invite children to look at the books and take “notes.” Let children share their information with classmates.
*This would also be a good activity for children to do with a partner or small group.

Spider Puppet 
You will need paper plates, construction paper, an old sock, markers, and a stapler to make this project. Decorate two plates to look like a spider’s body. Cut eight 8” x 1 12” strips for the spider’s legs. Glue 4 legs on either side of the body. Staple the plates together around the sides where the legs are glued. Draw a face on the sock and then stick it through the center of the plates.

Spider Soup
This was one of my favorite Halloween activities! Get a large industrial size can of chicken noodle soup. Remove the wrapper and cover with construction paper. Write “spider soup” on the label. Take two packages of ramen noodles and crush. Put in a paper lunch sack and write “spider webs” on the front of the sack. Explain to the children that you’ll be having spider soup for snack. Show them the can and just LISTEN to their comments. Open the can and put it in a crock pot. (Someone will be sure to comment that they see spider legs and meat!) Show them the sack and explain that you will end crunchy spider webs to make it better. Dump those in and slowly cook until it is warm. Serve in paper cups.
Spider Applause
Bend down thumbs and touch four fingertips from each hand. Tap gently! That’s the spider applause you get for using these ideas!

P.S.  It's World Smile Day!  :)

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Although Halloween is weeks away, over the next few days I'll share some “boootiful” and “spooktacular” ideas to scare up some smiles and fun in your classroom!! I realize that some people think Halloween is bad and evil, but to me it’s just an excuse to dress up and have fun. It also gives children the opportunity face their fears and discern real from pretend. An interesting thing is when asked, “What was your favorite holiday growing up?” most adults will say that (after Christmas) Halloween was the most fun.

3 Little Witches
(Tune: “Ten Little Indians”)
One little, two little, three little witches.
Flying over haystacks, flying over ditches.
Slid down the moon and tore their britches!
Hi, ho, Halloween’s here!
Choose three children to be witches and act out the song. Make brooms by rolling up several sheets of newspaper. Tape. Cut down 8” from one end and fluff.

Sitrring Our Brew
Stirring and stirring and stirring our brew… (Pretend to stir.)
Wooooooo! Woooooo! (Cup hands by mouth.)
Stirring and stirring and stirring our brew… (Stir.)
Wooooooo! Wooooo! (Cup hands by mouth.)
Tip-toe. Tip-toe. BOO! (Pretend to tip-toe.)
Witch’s Stew – How about a little witch’s stew for snack. You will need 5 lunch sacks, 1 large bowl, Cheerios, pretzel sticks, fish crackers, raisins, M & M’s, ice cream cones. Write “frog eyes” on one sack and fill with Cheerios. Write “salted bones” on the second sack and fill with pretzel sticks. Write “dead fish” on the third sack and fill with fish crackers. Write “toad eyes” on the fourth sack and fill with raisins. Write “lizard gizzards” on the fifth sack and fill with M&M’s. Place the large bowl on the floor and make up a story about collecting all the items for your witch’s stew. One at a time let children come up and dump the contents in the bowl. Stir with a spoon as you sing the above song. Serve in ice cream cones. (Hint! You can substitute peanuts, miniature marshmallows, or other snack foods for any of the ingredients.)
Handprint Art – Trace around children’s hands and feet on white paper. Glue to black construction paper and let children add details.
Ghost Busters – Cut ghost shapes out of white paper. Write letters, numerals, words, or whatever skill you want to reinforce on the ghosts. Staple ghosts to a bulletin board and let the children identify the information as they swat the ghosts with a fly swatter.
*You can make a similar game from a file folder. Glue a hand to a craft stick and use to swat the ghosts.

Scary Things – Halloween is a good time to talk about things that are real and things that are pretend. It’s also helpful to talk about things that scare us. I always talk about things that scare me, and that usually encourages the children to open up and talk about things that scare them. Everybody’s afraid of something, and that’s O.K. Make a class book called “Scary Things” where each child draws their fears and dictates or writes a story about them.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


I asked K.J. what he liked best about school so far and he was excited to tell me about the video project he was doing with a classmate. Apparently, they were divided into partners and they are each doing a 45 second video based on a content area. K.J. got science, which is his favorite subject, but he was a little frustrated with his partner because his partner had never used the technology before. There also seemed to be a little conflict about which background music to use, yada, yada. WOW! Just think for a second what a useful skill that will be in the future…helping a co-worker…figuring out how to give and take…collaborating for the good of the group…I could go on and on. 

However, I’ll just stay check out my website today because I’ve got some terrific ideas for group work and partner projects. It gives me such JOY to come up with these ideas to share with you. Teaching is like a revolving door because 25 years ago we were “into” cooperative learning…and here we are again! Why? Because in real life and in the work force of the future, knowing how to work in groups is critical. As you read through the different activities on my website, think about implementing one a week to add a little variety to a task that you would ordinarily ask children to do independently.

I’ve also got a free song download called “Mother Goony Bird.” Yep, it’s another silly song, but the sweet thing is it’s just as much fun to sing today as was years ago. You’ll also find a Spanish version by Boca Beth.