Monday, February 8, 2016


Here are some "hands-on" activities for learning letters.  They can easily be extended by asking children to write letters.  

Letter Looker
Loop around a pipe cleaner to make a “letter looker.” Children can identify letters in the classroom and in books with their lookers.

Letter Hunt
Place magnetic letters in a sand table or a box of Styrofoam packing. Children reach in, find a letter, and name the letter. Can they write the letter on a clipboard?

Letter Pops
Glue magnetic letters to jumbo craft sticks. Have children choose a letter and then walk around the room and match it up with classroom print.
*Make upper and lowercase letters for them to match.

Letter Man
Letter Man wants to help children learn letters. He’s made from a small swing trash can available at the Dollar Tree. Decorate with googly eyes, pompoms and felt scraps. Children can feed Letter Man letters that they know, letters in their name, make words and feed him, letters in alphabetical order, and so forth.

Letter Puzzles
Write upper and lowercase letters on opposite sides of a paper plate. Cut puzzle designs between the letters. Children will know if they’ve matched upper and lowercase letters correctly because there will be a perfect fit.

Sign Language Center
Sign language is multi-sensory and a perfect vehicle for learning letters and sounds. Go to to download the manual signs for letters and glue them to a pocket folder. Write letters on index cards and insert in the pocket. Children choose a card, match up the letter on the chart, and then try to make the letter sign with their fingers.
*You can also write words on index cards and children can finger spell them.


Sunday, February 7, 2016


These center ideas will help children develop the concept that "letters make words."  They can be adapted for older students to reinforce vocabulary or spelling words.

Name Puzzles
Write children’s names on a sentence strip. Cut between the letters to make a puzzle. Next, write each child’s name and glue their photo to the front of an envelope. Place the puzzle pieces inside. Children can practice putting the puzzles together and reading friends’ names.

*Put sticky dots on unifix cubes. (Use one color for the first letter and same colored dots for the other letters.) Print the letters in children’s names on the dots. Place a class directory with names and pictures so children can practice “building” their friends’ names.

Pull and Read 

Write children’s names or high frequency words on 12” sentence strips. Cut the left end off the envelope and insert sentence strips inside. Pull out one letter at a time to blend sounds and predict what the word might be.
*Use children’s photos or picture cues on the right side of the sentence strip so children can self-check.

Alphabet Beads
Give children alphabet beads and pipe cleaners so they can string on names, words, and so forth.
Clothespin Words
Write words on jumbo craft sticks. Write letters on spring clothespins. Children attach letters to the craft stick to make words.
Letter Bags and Boxes
Save sacks from restaurants or use food boxes for this center. Place foam letters or magnetic letters in a basket. Children pick a letter and then try to match it up with the same letter on a bag or box.

Saturday, February 6, 2016


Not only is it important to expose children to a wide variety of literature, you can challenge them to learn the vocabulary for classifying different books that you read.

Select several different types of books (ABC, fiction, fairy tale, poetry, nursery rhyme, cookbook, magazine, etc.) and place them in a cloth shopping bag. Explain that you went to a bookstore and you need help labeling the books. On the front of index cards write: poem, nursery rhyme, fantasy, real, alphabet, etc. Children take the cards and match them up with the appropriate book. Encourage them to explain to a friend how they made their selections.

Fantasy – Real
Give children old magazines, newspapers, scissors, and glue. Fold a piece of paper in half and draw a line down the middle crease to make a T-chart. Write “Fantasy” on one side and “Real” on the other side. Have children cut out pictures of things that are pretend/fantasy and glue on one side. Ask them to cut out pictures of things that are real and glue them to the other side. Can they explain the difference?
*Explain that “fantasy,” “pretend,” and “fiction” all mean the same thing. “Real” and “non-fiction” can also mean the same thing.

Book Club Order Forms
Save those book club order forms for identifying different types of texts. Give children a list and have them cut out books for each category.
     How to
     Your favorite

Author Study
Keep a basket in your classroom library with a variety of books by a specific author. Have the children look through the basket to explore how the books are alike? How are they different? Let them make a “wish list” of the ones they would like to read.

Buddy Reading
Have two copies of leveled books for children to read with a friend. Sitting on the floor facing each other they repeat this chant:
     Eye to eye
     And knee to knee
     I’m so glad
     You can read with me.

After reading encourage them to discuss what type of book it is.  Can they give examples?

Friday, February 5, 2016


Do you feel like your brain is on “pause”? Are you running out of ideas for centers? Are your students rolling their eyes as you hand them another worksheet? Over the few days I’ll try to spark up standards with some simple multi-sensory center ideas.

Note! Many districts now require teachers to display focus goals at centers. Last year Carolyn Kisloski ( helped me create “I Can” standard cards that you can post in your centers.
Go to WWW.DRJEAN.ORG/HTML/MONTHLY_ACT/ACT_2014/07 to download them.

Although every state has variations of standards, the core skills are the same. Standards are based on research, and all states are committed to adhering to the research.


Story House
Fold a piece of paper in half lengthwise. Open. Fold the top two corners down to the crease. Fold the bottom up so it looks like a house. Children can draw the characters on the front of the house and then open to draw the setting.
*Write the author and illustrator on the top flaps and the title on the front. Open and ask children to draw their favorite part of the story.

Play Dough Characters
Give children play dough and let them make their favorite character.
*Let them draw the setting on a sheet of paper and then use the play dough character to talk about the story.

What Can You Find Out?
Collect several non-fiction books on the same topic. Demonstrate how to fold a sheet of paper into fourths to make a book. Ask the children to look through the books to see what they can find out. Have them draw or write notes in their books about what they learned.

Story Telling Center
Puppets are a unique way to integrate art with standards. Children can make stick puppets, lunch sack puppets, paper plate puppets, envelope puppets, etc. of favorite characters from books read. Their “puppet” can then retell the story.
Flannel Board
To make a simple flannel board, staple the sides of a file folder and glue felt to the front. Make characters from felt or copy color photos from the book, cut them out, and attach a piece of Velcro to the back. Model how to retell the story and then invite the children to retell it using the felt pieces.
*Milk filter paper is perfect for flannel board characters. Cut milk filters to
8 ½” x 11” and place in the copy machine. Choose an appropriate page from a book and make a color copy. Cut out and you’ll have realistic pieces to retell a story.

Thursday, February 4, 2016


Have your students got a bad case of the wiggles? Here's a new video that's a sure cure to help them release energy, refocus, and smile. They can stand and sing this song, or just let them sit and "chair dance."

Wiggle Willy
I know a little boy. (Dance from side to side to the beat.)
His name is Wiggle Willy.
He is so very nice, but oh, he is so wiggly!
And so go his fingers and his fingers go like so
And his fingers are always soooooo… (Wiggle fingers.)
And so go his arms…(Wiggle arms and fingers.)
Legs…(Wiggle legs, arms, and fingers.)
Head…(Wiggle head, legs, arms, and fingers.)
Tongue…(Move tongue back and forth along with the other body parts.)
Wiggle Willy!

Activities: Why is Willy so wiggly? What makes you wiggly? What can you do about it?

Have the children brainstorm how they can get rid of wiggles on the bus, in the car, sitting in their seat at school, etc.

Let children draw their interpretations of Wiggle Willy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


I love taking something old and turning it into something new like these ideas for Super Bowl Learning!

Survey Says
Let children do surveys (classroom, at home, etc.) to find out which team others think will win the Super Bowl. (This won’t be too surprising if you live in Colorado or the Carolinas!)

“Offensive,” “Defensive,” “Penalty,” “Referee,” “Substitution,” “Huddle” …How many football terms can you think of that might be meaningful to learn?

Jersey Math
Let children choose their favorite player’s number and write it on a paper jersey. How many facts can they think of that equal that number. 
Starting Line Up
At the beginning of the day let children make two lines facing each other. Introduce one child at a time and let them run through the two lines as their friends give them high five and cheer.

Good Job
At the end of the day make a huddle and say, “Good job, team!”

How many players on each team? How many players in all?
How long is a football field?
How many points for a touchdown? Field goal? Safety?
How long is a quarter? How long is the entire game?
How many yards in a first down?

Let children estimate what they think the total score will be. After the game determine who guessed more – less - the closest?

Team Colors and Mascots
What are Denver’s team colors? What are Carolina's’s team colors?
Let children draw pictures and write stories about the different mascots.

Put out the scrap box and let children make pennants, hats, pompoms, and other paraphernalia.

Football Practice Game
Cut footballs out on the fold similar to the one shown. Write math facts on the front and the answer inside.
*These can be used for phonics, numerical order, question and answers, etc.

Brainstorm what players have to do to get ready for the game. Emphasize the importance of good nutrition, exercise, and studying the playbook. These are all things that are important to good students as well!!!

Circuit Training

Here’s a super way to get some exercise when the weather is bad. Write exercises similar to the ones below on construction paper and tape them around the room. Divide children into groups of 2 or 3 and have them start at a station. Put on some music with a good beat. Time the children for one minute at each station and then say, “Switch!” Groups rotate in a circle around the room until they have completed each station.
*tire run (feet apart and arms out as you run in place)
*throw and catch (pretend to throw overhead and then catch a football)
*scissor jump (jump crossing legs right and then left)
*balance (stand on one leg)
*passing run (run in place as fast as you can)
*jump and catch (jump up in the air as you pretend to catch the ball)
*toe touch (touch toes and then hands in the air)
*squats (arms out front as you bend legs up and down)
*jumping jacks (jump out with arms up and then jump in with arms down)
*jump rope (pretend to jump rope in place)
*silent cheer leaders (jump and cheer without making any noise)

What does "NFL" stand for? Download a copy of the team logos (Mr. Google will help you) and make a visual matching game or memory game.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Alex May is the best webmaster in the world, and he’s created an wonderful new video for you this month. Some of you are familiar with my “President’s Song.” I mentioned to Alex that teachers and children might enjoy seeing the faces of the Presidents as they sing the song and taa daa! Here it is!
I realize learning the names of the Presidents might not be in your standards, but sometimes it’s just fun to learn something because you can!!! This is something your students could watch during transitions as they wash their hands or get ready to go home. I’ve had kindergarten and first grade teachers tell me their students can sing the Presidents and they think they are too cool for school. Not to mention how impressed parents or visitors to your classroom will be!

P.S.  Learning the Presidents might be a good challenge for you if you can't sleep in the middle of the night or if you are stuck in traffic.  I remember several years ago when I met a lawyer who thought he was pretty smart.  He said Lincoln was the 17th President, and I corrected him as I sang the song and held up my fingers!!!  I put him in his place!!!